James Bernard was born in India where his father was in the army. He moved to England and attended Wellington College (only a few years after Christopher Lee) and here he was introduced to Benjamin Britten who would become a major influence on his musical career. After leaving college, he spent a year with Britten assisting him while he was writing the opera Billy Budd. Encouraged by Britten to pursue a career in composition he met the writer and critic Paul Dehn and their later collaboration on the story for the British thriller Seven Days to Noon won them a British Oscar in 1951. Dehn's many contacts at the BBC led to Bernard establishing a career in writing original scores for many important dramas.
Bernard's entry into the world of Hammer Films occured in 1955 when a composer was needed for thier film version of the hit BBC serial The Quartermass Experiment. The previously assigned composer, John Hotchkiss, had fallen ill at the last minute and the studio's music supervisor, John Hollingsworth, already familiar with Bernard's work for BBC Radio dramas (having conducted most of them), suggested him for the job. The subsequent box-office success of the film ensured his regular re-employment by Hammer for a sequel, Quartermass II, X the Unknown and their two ground-breaking genre classics Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958).
After more than 20 years of continuous work for Hammer and other studios, James Bernard semi-retired to Jamaica and it wasn't until the Silva Screen recording of selected scores from Hammer Films in 1989 that he actively began looking at his earlier work for re-recording purposes. He produced new concert arrangements of some of his best-loved scores and in 1997 came his crowning achievement--a newly composed score for the restoration of the 1922 silent classic Nosferatu. Bernard's score for Nosferatu premiered at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on November 17th. His last work was the score for the television documentary The Vampire Hunter in 2001. He became ill during the early part of 2001 and after complications set in, died on July 9th.
At his request, the track "Awakening And Absolution" (contained on this compilation) was played as part of his memorial service held on July 24th. His enthusiasm, encouragement and generosity of spirit during the years that Silva Screen were fortunate enough to know him and work with him will always be fondly remembered.
--DAVID STONER, DAVID WISHART &
JAMES FITZPATRICK, from the liner notes
Hammer: The Sudio That Dripped Blood.
A selection of James Bernard film scores.
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A selection of James Bernard in books.
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