Friday, 9 March 2007
Morse At 20 - And An ITV3 Celebration Weekend
This April is a milestone in the life of Colin Dexter’s creation - Inspector Morse. He reaches a grand age of 20, in television years that is and a special ITV3 weekend next month celebrating his anniversary reaches a climax with Morse Live At The Albert Hall, a spectacular evening of music, hosted by Michael Parkinson and headlining opera stars Lesley Garrett, Sir Willard White and Alfie Boe.
The Albert Hall concert – staged with Classic FM – will include performances of music specially selected from the series, as well as pieces that illustrate the much-loved facets of the eponymous Oxford detective. Featured composers will include Wagner, Mozart, Puccini, Handel and Haydn. It will be held on 19 April, and transmitted on ITV3 during the Morse weekend on 28 and 29 April.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra will be joined on stage by the Crouch End Festival Chorus, conducted by Simon Wright. Award-winning composer Barrington Pheloung, who created the famous Morse theme and original music for the series, will also make a guest appearance on the conductor’s podium.
Performers include soprano Lesley Garrett, taking a night off from her acclaimed appearance in The Sound of Music, bass-baritone Sir Willard White and popular young tenor Alfie Boe.
Kevin Whately, who played Morse’s long-suffering colleague in the series and now stars in the new ITV drama Lewis, will also make a special appearance in the TV programme.
ITV3’s Inspector Morse Weekend will also feature new documentaries, including There’s Something About Morse, in which actors – among them John Thaw’s widow Sheila Hancock – writers and producers explore the unsurpassed success of the ITV series, and The Music of Morse, a detailed examination of how music is used in the drama, and narrated by Kevin Whately.
The channel will also screen 12 Morse episodes, each with an introduction by Kevin as he recounts his memories from filming, including his first encounter with John Thaw and their trip to Australia for The Promised Land episode.
The Morse episode from Super Sleuths, which shows how the Oxford detective made the transition from page to screen, will also be screened as part of the weekend, and there will be another chance to see The John Thaw Story, first transmitted on ITV in 2002, the year of John’s death at the age of 60. Morse Live At The Albert Hall is sponsored by Nescafé; its transmission on ITV3 is sponsored by Classic FM.
Steven Andrew, Programme Director, ITV Digital Channels, said: “Celebrating its 20th anniversary with a weekend dedicated to Inspector Morse is a fitting way to acknowledge Morse's important contribution to our television culture.
“Our contribution has been to commission a whole raft of original shows that examine both the series and the character, helpfully giving viewers a new insight into what has made this series so enduring.
“Our transmission of the concert demonstrates that ITV3 is about more than just repeats. We wanted an event that both supported ITV3 values as well as giving our viewers a chance to participate. This concert is the first step towards taking the brand ‘Great stories, beautifully told’ beyond TV. The choice of Classic FM is also important as it's a partnership that enhances and supports the channel’s core values.”
Classic FM Managing Director Darren Henley said: “Inspector Morse is one of TV’s great icons and we’re delighted to be working with ITV3 on the Royal Albert Hall concert and its Morse weekend in what will be the first in a new collaboration between Classic FM and ITV3. We’re particularly pleased to be embarking upon a new partnership with ITV3 by working with the channel on its celebration of Morse – a character whose name is synonymous with classical music.”
Also marking the 20th anniversary, ITV DVD, part of Granada Ventures, will be running promotions on its Inspector Morse DVD collection throughout the year in celebration of the hit show based on Colin Dexter’s crime novels.
Inspector Morse has attracted some of the largest drama audiences on British television since it was first seen in January 1987, and has been a world-wide best-seller.
It has always been a magnet for the cream of British acting talent in its guest roles, with suspects and villains, academics and victims being played by the likes of the late Sir John Gielgud, Richard Briers, Anna Massey, Richard Wilson, Sheila Gish, Frances Barber, Joanna David, Sean Bean, Sorcha Cusack, Jim Broadbent and Diana Quick.Early appearances in Morse saw actors such as Amanda Burton, Philip Middlemiss, Martin Clunes and Charlotte Coleman with the great detective, while a young Elizabeth Hurley appears in Last Seen Wearing as a pupil at a girls’ private school.
Behind the camera in the leafy streets and college quadrangles of Oxford have been future Oscar winners like Shakespeare In Love and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin director John Madden and Trainspotting’s Danny Boyle, while The English Patient director Anthony Minghella wrote the first-ever Morse screenplay for The Dead Of Jericho and two further screenplays. Another Country dramatist Julian Mitchell has written more Morse episodes than any other, 10 in all, and other writers include playwrights Charles Wood and Peter Nichols, and novelist Malcolm Bradbury.
The first ever Morse film The Dead Of Jericho established the format of two-hour drama on television, after executive producer Ted Childs and the first producer, the late Kenny McBain, brought the creation of former classics master and Oxford examiner Colin Dexter to the small screen.
Inspector Morse has had a global audience of a billion people in 200 countries, ranging from Canada to Mongolia, Malawi to Nepal, El Salvador to Papua New Guinea. In 1990 John Thaw received the BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Morse, and the next year was voted ITV Personality of 1990 and TV Times’ Favourite Actor of 1990. Other awards have been bestowed on composer Barrington Pheloung and the team of writers on the fifth series.