Charles Williams (composer)

Charles Williams (8 May 1893 – 7 September 1978) was a British composer and conductor, contributing music to over 50 films. While his career ran from 1934 through 1968, much of his work came to the big screen as stock music and was therefore uncredited


Williams was born in London as Isaac Cozerbreit in 1893.[1] He began his career as a freelance violinist in theatres, cinemas and symphony orchestras and later studied composition with Norman O'Neill at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1933, he went to Gaumont British Films as composer and stayed there until 1939. He composed for many British films and radio shows and after the end of World War II, he became the conductor of the new Queen's Hall Light Orchestra. Later, he formed his own Concert Orchestra. He died in Findon Valley, Worthing, West Sussex, aged 85.

Light music compositionsEdit

He composed many orchestral pieces and marches for his ensembles, which were recorded in the "Mood Music" category of light music and during the 1950s became familiar as film and television signature themes, often in his own recordings:

  • "Blue Devils" is a popular march and Williams' first success as a composer. It was originally published as "The Kensington March" and written for the opening of the Odeon in Kensington in 1926, where Williams conducted the cinema orchestra. When he left the cinema in 1928 the march was renamed "Blue Devils" and first published under that name in 1929,[2] dedicated to the Territorial Army regiment Kensington Rifles.[3]
  • "Devil's Galop" was the theme tune to the radio serial Dick Barton.
  • "The Young Ballerina" accompanied The Potter's Wheel probably the most famous of the BBC's 1950s interludes.
  • "The Old Clockmaker" was chosen as the radio theme to Jennings at School
  • "Girls in Grey", originally written for the Women's Junior Air Corp during World War II later became known as the BBC Television Newsreel theme.
  • "High Adventure", adapted slightly, is still used as the signature tune of BBC Radio 2's Friday Night is Music Night.
  • "A Quiet Stroll" was used for BBC Television's Farming programme at its launch in 1957, as well as a more recent programme Tracks.
  • "Rhythm on Rails" was often used in the BBC Morning Music programmes, but contrary to some reports was not its signature tune.

He also composed the popular piano concerto pastiche, The Dream of Olwen, for the film While I Live. His "Majestic Fanfare" (1935) was used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for many years as the signature tune for its radio and television news broadcasts. A version as re-orchestrated by Richard Mills in 1988 is still used for radio news broadcasts.[4]

Film compositionsEdit


  • Oxford Companion to Popular Music by Peter Gammond - published by Oxford University Press 1991 - ISBN 0-19-280004-3

External linksEdit