ERIC JAMES

 
 

Eric James joined the BBC in 1945 after serving over four years in the Royal Air Force and during the next 20 years did more than a thousand broadcasts, made records for HMV and Decca, played piano at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall and all of the principal Theatres and Concert Halls in Great Britain. Eric traveled the world to entertain Service men and women in Germany, Austria, North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, Cyprus, Malta, Far East, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, North Borneo, Japan, Korea and subsequently did a number of trips entertaining the passengers on P & O’s Luxury Cruise ships.He accompanied a great many famous stars: Larry Adler, Julie Andrews, Ann Blyth, Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn, Joan Hammond, Jayne Mansfield, Harry Secombe, Topol, Frankie Vaughan to mention a few. Eric had his own Radio series “Piano Playtime” and could be heard regularly with Wilfred Pickles, Elsie & Doris Waters, Stanley Holloway, and other stars with their series for the BBC. Eric conducted the orchestra at the New Theatre in London’s West End for two years for the famous “Oliver” Musical and worked at the film studios as Vocal Coach for “Trottie True”, “Oliver”, “Too Hot to Handle”, and “Fiddler on the Roof”. Eric met Charlie Chaplin in 1956 when he was directing “A King in New York” for which he was engaged to record a solo piano sequence for the film. As a result of this successful assignment, Eric was invited by Chaplin to work with him at his home in Vevey, Switzerland on a number of films that he thought would be greatly improved by adding a music track. Eric’s job was to take down Chaplin’s ideas, help him to develop them and subsequently arrange for the music to be recorded for full piece orchestra. The combination proved to be so successful that Eric became Chaplin’s sole Music Associate and was responsible for the music for a great number of Chaplin movies -“A Dog’s Life”, “Soldier in Arms”, “The Pilgrim”, “The Circus”, “The Kid”, “Sunnyside”, “ Pay Day”, “A Day’s Pleasure”, “A Countess from Hong Kong”, “A Woman of Paris” to mention a few.

From then on, Eric and his talented wife and partner Phyllis O’Reilly have been giving a presentation which they call “A Tribute to Charlie Chaplin”. They emigrated to Canada in 1987 and are hoping that this unique and entertaining mixture of music, anecdotes, songs, slides and even a short Chaplin comedy film will prove to be as popular and successful as it was in Great Britain. They have made a number of appearances on all of the principle TV and Radio Stations in Canada and have performed in Concerts at Roy Thompson Hall and other prestigious venues. In 1990 Eric was engaged by TV Ontario to provide the appropriate piano accompaniment to 33 of Charlie Chaplin’s short comedy films which he had made between 1914 and 1918. This assignment required him to compose and record no less than eight and a half hours of continuous music, which he recorded in 4 days. Eric and Phyllis have successfully coached a number of students in singing and music, four of whom were awarded scholarships at the Universities of the choice and one student won a scholarship for a year’s study at the New York Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Since then he has played leading roles in a number of Plays and Films. In 1997 they were invited by Micheal Lancaster, Conductor of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra U.S.A. to present their “Tribute to Charlie Chaplin”, prior to the screening of “City Lights” for two consecutive evenings at the 2000 seated Concert Hall. As a result of this, Carl Davis recommended that they be invited to appear before the screening of “The Kid” in January 1998 at the Concert Halls in Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Eindhoven where he Conducted the Symphony Orchestra playing the original music from the score on which Eric worked with Charlie Chaplin. Eric has just completed his autobiography entitled “Making Music with Charlie Chaplin” in which he relates some of his experience whilst working with Chaplin for the last twenty years of his life as well as with many other international stars with whom he worked. The book will be on sale in April 2000. Earlier in 1999 he was busy composing original music which he recorded for re-issues of six Chaplin comedy “shorts” that are being released by David Shephard in Hollywood. Also He and his wife and partner were performing guests at a film Festival in Northern Italy where he improvised pianoforte music for a number of full length “Silent” movies and Phyllis sang and featured some of the songs that Eric helped Charlie Chaplin to compose during his twenty years association with the great man as his sole Music Associate. Shortly before Chaplin died in 1977, he presented Eric with a copy of his literary offering entitled “My Life in Pictures”. On the Flyleaf he wrote “To Eric with my love and respect”. Could any musician and author ask for a finer dedication.

Eric James 11 August 1913-28 March 2006...

 

ERIC JAMES Composer/Conductor/Pianist