Paul Neville’s professional musical career did not conform to the usual academic background that is associated with most composers.
Despite having to listen to his father’s “enthusiastic” singing along in “obscure keys” to popular operatic arias that were being played on the radio during the 1950’s, Paul still managed to persevere along his own path in the pursuit of music.
The final years of Paul’s education were at a Catholic college where he studied for the priesthood.
Latin, Greek and French were all included in an intensive college curriculum – but Gregorian plainchant was the subject that fascinated Paul when singing the medieval Latin text with his fellow seminarians in the college chapel. (This had an influence on his music in later years.)
Eventually Paul decided that the priesthood was not for him, so he left the seminary and looked for work.
A great “burner of candles at both ends”, he took on a variety of work during the 1960’s to secure a regular income. Firstly as a police constable, then a lifeguard – and then as a photographic model with a well known London agency. These jobs enabled him to follow his real passion – music -by playing keyboard in bands in his spare time and at nights.
The era of the 60’s was a halcyon time for many bands.
If you were good, there were many opportunities for bookings as live support bands for the UK and USA touring artists of the day.
Paul’s band did “warm-ups” for a number of those UK and USA acts – including one for Dionne Warwick‘s gigs back in 1964. (Paul’s still scratching his head now after Dionne’s warm-up – as he didn’t even get to meet her! His band had to leave the stage hurriedly before her set started – so that his band could then travel on to the next gig at a different venue that same night! It was “serious hard work” back then ……)
Marriage and the arrival of children put paid to all this wanton behaviour and Paul then had to find more “serious jobs” with a regular salary to support his new family … with the now customary proviso that nights and weekends would still be spent writing and arranging and gigging ….
For ten years during the 70’s, he worked for two multi-national companies – Unilever and then later for Honda Motorcycles (UK). Eventually leaving Honda UK, Paul started a retail motorcycle partnership based in London in the early 80’s.
After four years retailing in London, he changed direction again and started a print and design company in Sussex with a fellow musician and writer.
But Paul’s spare writing time became ever increasingly busier during these years. New briefs for work continually came in from various conservation agencies including the World Wide Fund for Nature who all needed music written and produced for their video productions.
At this point, unable to keep all these balls up in the air, Paul decided to work full-time as a composer and arranger.
This new era enabled him to spend more time in bringing his earlier classical music influences back into his compositions and arrangements.
He started a new quartet called “Rubato” (flute, clarinet, violin and cello) that gave live performances and an outlet for his new works – and he also enjoyed a creative relationship with a contemporary choreographer (Angela Lane) writing new music to her dance routines.
Among other live performances, Paul co-produced a concert with Spike Milligan. The music (written and arranged by Paul) was for Strings, Wind, Brass and Percussion and featured a boy treble, Johnny Mercer (now currently Minister of Defence in the UK Government). It was performed by the Opus 20 Orchestra with Paul on piano – and conducted by the renowned Scott Stroman.
“I never dreamed that one day someone would want to set my poems to music ….”
Spike Milligan (1996)
* Paul and Spike lived near each other in Sussex and this concert was the culmination of a years work between them. Paul composed new pieces of music set to a selection of Spike’s poems. Spike read his poems on stage during the performance while the orchestra played the pieces on the stage behind him.
Many years later, Paul again set music to poetry – this time it was to the poem “Belderg” written by the Irish poet, playwrite and Nobel Prize recipient for Literature – Seamus Heaney.
The “Belderg” poem featured as part of a nine piece suite of music composed by Paul called “Ceide Fields” which took its inspiration from the folklore and history of the west coast of County Mayo in Ireland.
Seamus Heaney wrote to Paul after hearing the piece for the first time. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“Belderg – your setting, delicate and pointed, crossing the old “cruit” music with younger strains of the pianoforte, hammers and strings, as it were. And it takes place very naturally in the whole nine-part programme, with its light and shade, its variously martial and melodic episodes.”
Seamus Heaney (2012)
When Paul was not working on individual projects or theatrical presentations, he composed and recorded music for numerous television themes, trailers, television commercials and corporate/ad agency productions.
His non secular works include:
“The Mass” (Kyrie Eleison, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) for Sopranos/Altos/Tenor/Bass.
“De Profundis” (Latin)
“Ave Maria” (Latin)
“Ave Verum Corpus” (Latin)
“Te Lucis Ante Terminum” (Latin and English)
“The Lord’s Prayer” (English)
“Hail Mary” (English)
His secular works include:
“Hold Me Again”
“The Latin Code”
“When I Suspected”
Paul now composes, arranges and records in his project studio in the West of Ireland and – as a keen motorcyclist – he tries not to kill himself while out riding along the curves and bends of the “Wild Atlantic Way” which runs close to his workplace.