trevor duncan was an english composer, particularly noted for his light music compositions. born in london, and largely self-taught, he originally composed as a sideline while working for the bbc. in the uk, he is well known for pieces such as the girl from corsica, high heels and the march from a little suite, all of which gained fame as television and radio themes.

trevor duncan was born leonard charles trebilcock (he later shortened this to trebilco) in camberwell, london, england. by twelve he could play the piano by ear, but wanted to learn to read and compose music properly. thus, for one year he attended the trinity college of music for an external course on violin, harmony and counterpoint. however, his early knowledge of music was largely self-taught.

at eighteen, duncan joined the british broadcasting corporation assisting in the production of radio plays. in 1943 he was conscripted into the royal air force where he became a wireless operator. after his discharge from the raf in 1947 he was given the opportunity to go to cambridge university, but decided to return to bbc radio as a sound and balance engineer working with many light orchestras. it was by studying scores and their orchestral effects that duncan gained knowledge about composition and it was through an encounter with the conductor ray martin that duncan had his first piece vision in velvet performed. however, the bbc restricted its own employees from having music performed on air. thus, he concentrated on writing music to be recorded for newsreels and other companies not connected with the bbc. it was also at this point he chose his pseudonym, trevor duncan, a reference to a school nickname.

ray martin's approval of his next piece, the famous high heels encouraged duncan to approach boosey & hawkes, who approved it for recording. the piece enjoyed immediate success, with numerous radio performances and a commercial recordings. in the next few years duncan composed numerous works and he became one of the most prolific writers of so-called 'mood' music.

with his success, he was unable to keep his bbc identity separate from his growing fame as a composer. in 1954 duncan was promoted to be a music producer, and this conflict of interests meant that the bbc could not schedule any of his works in its programmes. duncan made the decision to concentrate on composing full-time and left the bbc in 1956.

in 1959, he composed his two most famous works the girl from corsica and the little suite. the first of these was used as the theme music for the bbc television serial of francis durbridge's the scarf; the opening march from the second was used as the signature tune for dr. finlay's casebook. however, after light music began to be heard less in the uk, he turned his attention to more serious orchestral works.

until his death in 2005, trevor duncan continued composing, living with his wife and daughter in somerset. he died in taunton, somerset, aged 81.

 

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