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George Melachrino

(1909—1965) conductor and composer


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b. George Militiades, 1 May 1905, London, England, d. 18 June 1965, London, England. An orchestra leader, composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Melachrino was the son of Greek parents. He learned to play a miniature violin, and wrote his first composition when he was five years old. He was already an accomplished musician by the age of 14 when he enrolled at the Trinity College of Music, where he specialized in chamber music and the use of strings. At the age of 16, he wrote a string sextet that was performed in London. He resolved to learn to play every instrument in the orchestra, and succeeded, with the exception of the harp and piano. In 1927, he began his broadcasting career, playing and singing from the BBC studio at Savoy Hill. He strayed further and further away from his initial ambition to be a classical musician, playing jazz instead, and working in dance bands for leaders such as Bert Firman, Harry Hudson, Ambrose and Carroll Gibbons ’ Savoy Hotel Orchestra. In 1939, Melachrino formed his own dance band to play at the prestigious London venue the Café de Paris, until 1940. During the period of the ‘Battle of Britain’, he joined the British Army as a military policeman, eventually becoming a Regimental Sergeant-Major. He later toured in the Stars Of Battledress and was musical director of the Army Radio Unit, as well as the leader of the British Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He also led the 50-piece ‘Orchestra in Khaki’, recruited from professional musicians serving in the ranks, who were much amused when he was introduced on broadcasts as ‘the Sentimental Sergeant-Major’. The unit held its own against the American band led by Glenn Miller and the Canadian combination led by Robert Farnon, with both of whom Melachrino guested as vocalist on occasions during the war years.

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From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.


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