September 16, 2021
She warbled the theme to The Saint, sang with Springfield – and fed Hendrix shepherd’s pie. Yet outside the music industry, the late musician is still unknown – why?
Jimi, Elton, Dusty … the overlooked musical magic of Barbara Moore
In 1968, when Barbara Moore picked up the conductor’s baton in the immense EMI Studio 1, the assembled musicians were incredulous. Moore was better known to them as a backing singer, a regular in the all-female singing group the Ladybirds. Although she had already released her own piano album, A Little Moore Barbara, few realised her potential as a composer and arranger. “My name was at the bottom of a list at EMI,” she said in 2012 to one interviewer, Lorraine Bowen. However, a flu pandemic had left everyone else out of action, so Moore received an unexpected call from the producer Tony Palmer. “He said: ‘I understand you’re an arranger … I need an album doing in six days – could you do it?’”
As Moore – who died last month at 89 – addressed the EMI orchestra, she was shaking so much that the baton slipped out of her hand. But any disrespect in the room evaporated when the players ploughed through her first arrangement: a rocky, orchestral version of Scarborough Fair for the up-and-coming folk Singer Deena Webster. “I’d worked day and night at the piano, singing the lead line, thinking: that’s got to be brass, that’s strings,” she said in 2012. “You didn’t know really what it was going to sound like. It sounded lovely.” Moore recalled the hugs and applause that followed the final bars of her arrangement. “I tell you – it was the most beautiful few minutes of 80 years.”
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