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A Blue Plaque for Bernard Herrmann...

Walk past a number of dwellings in Central London – and some outside the Capital – and you may spot a small circular blue plaque with the name of a notable resident.  These plaques are erected by English Heritage and are a small way of celebrating the named person’s life, something important they did at the address, or indeed just the fact they lived there for a time. 

Walk past 11 Cumberland Terrace, or 31 Chester Close North, in London NW6 (a stone’s throw from Regents Park) and you won’t see a Blue Plaque commemorating Bernard Herrmann, despite the fact he lived at both addresses during the last fifteen years of his life.

The composer chose England in which to settle after years of loving and admiring her from afar.  A committed Anglophile, Herrmann was fond – to the point of obsession some might say – of the English idyll; its literature (especially that of the Bronte sisters), its history, landscapes and of course its music.  A handful of professional visits between the 1930s and his eventual move to our isle only confirmed what Herrmann had always felt: England, and indeed London, was home from home.  He was – with his membership of the Saville Club, walks in the park with his Dogs – bedecked with fine overcoat, hat and cane – the very image of the English ‘gentleman’, and that apparently pleased him greatly.  Living, and working, in London was like living a dream for the composer, whose star in Hollywood had been temporarily extinguished.
You would think such a notable resident, composing some of his last great works within those London walls, not to mention his stints on the podium conducting some of our great orchestras (including The Halle, the London Symphony, the National Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic Orchestra - the latter performing some of Herrmann’s finest album recordings, all made in London – would mark him as a perfect candidate for a small Blue Plaque.

An application was rejected in recent times, with English Heritage citing that Herrmann’s time in London was ‘peripheral’ to his overall career.  Mozart lived in London for 15 months yet has a plaque in Ebury Street...  He might have composed his first Symphony whilst there, but the time there is surely as peripheral compared to what he achieved elsewhere.  Yes Herrmann was a film composer, but to him writing a film score was as important and garnered just as much passion, attention to detail and emotional input from him as any symphony and he would have penned a number of his last great works within those London walls.

The application is up for renewal in June – the month of Herrmann’s 100th Birthday -, so let’s put things right and get a new application approved

Michael Beek
Writer, Film Music Journalist, Producer
michaelbeek.co.uk

 


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You can help

Add your name to a petition which will be submitted with the application next month. 

Simply email michael@michaelbeek.co.uk and help us convince English Heritage that Bernard Herrmann ought to be given this honour, finally.