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July 3, 2008
Alexander Courage Remembered
Friends and colleagues share fond memories of respected Star Trek composer
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.—Composer Alexander "Sandy" Courage was eulogized as "a fantastic artist," an "extraordinary craftsman" and a "treasured friend" at a memorial service Sunday afternoon, June 29, at the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church.
Courage, best-known for his music for the original Star Trek series in the 1960s but also a highly respected arranger and orchestrator for dozens of movies from the '50s through the '90s, died May 15 at the age of 88.
About 150 attended the memorial, which opened and closed with a bagpiper in kilts – symbolizing Courage's proud Scottish heritage – marching through the sanctuary.
Among the speakers was composer John Williams, who spoke about "how much Sandy meant to me in my early life." He recalled meeting Courage in 1956 as the pianist at a Capitol Records session. Subsequently, Courage requested Williams to play for a ballet sequence in the 1957 Audrey Hepburn-Fred Astaire musical Funny Face; and recommended Williams to Adolph Deutsch for orchestration duties on the 1959 Some Like It Hot.
Williams spoke of Courage's importance as an arranger and orchestrator on the MGM musicals of the 1950s, linking him with Robert Russell Bennett and Herbert Spencer as the best in their field. He called Courage "a fantastic artist, craftsman and connoisseur. He loved sports cars, cigars and life," Williams said, adding that he led "a joyous, happy, highly contributive life. I feel so honored and privileged to have been Sandy's friend and colleague."
Veteran music editor Kenneth Hall recalled meeting Courage in 1961 at 20th Century-Fox, noting that they had done more than 40 films together along with countless TV shows. "He was always so sweet and so humble," Hall said, no matter how crazy the tight composing and recording schedules got as the years passed.
Hall spoke of working on Star Trek and Gremlins movies that Jerry Goldsmith scored, and Courage orchestrated, constantly marveling at how "fast and gifted" Courage was, regardless of the complexity of any musical sequence. He recalled happy times in London with Sandy and his beloved wife Shirley, and called Courage a "treasured friend."
Hall also read a note from Ian Fraser, a longtime colleague who often asked Courage to arrange for TV music specials. Fraser met Courage in 1965 as they were about to begin work on Doctor Dolittle (which ultimately earned Courage an Oscar nomination). "His work was always amazing," Fraser wrote, adding that Courage and Spencer "and the other legendary orchestrators in the Fox music department took me under their wing and provided me with an education second to none."
Film-music historian Jon Burlingame spoke about Courage's somewhat reluctant fame as the composer of the world's most famous fanfare, the eight-note signature for the starship Enterprise written in 1965. He called Courage "an extraordinary craftsman, someone who not only knew how to write for orchestra in any combination but who had an innate dramatic sense that enabled him to support the drama with subtlety and artistry at the same time."
Courage created "themes and scores for yesterday's entertainment that today are part of our collective memory and consciousness," Burlingame added, calling him "one of the warmest and most self-effacing composers" he ever met. He quoted Waltons creator Earl Hamner – for whom Courage scored over 120 episodes – as saying "We were so delighted to get Sandy."
Family friend John Scott quoted Courage's "sweet growl" of a word, the often-said "Marvelous!" and spoke of their mutual fascination for Brazilian music, especially the bossa nova movement of the 1960s, adding that "he knew that music came not from the notes, but from the heart."
Courage's stepchildren Raphael Pumpelly, Lisa Pompelli and Renata Pompelli all spoke movingly about their relationships with him – Raphael citing his love of astronomy, Lisa calling him "the most generous man I've ever known" and Renata quoting Sidney Lanier's "music is love in search of a word" and adding, poignantly, that "for me, that word is Courage."
A 10-minute video tribute, assembled by Michael Matessino and David Fein, showcased Courage, his professional colleagues and family members, to Courage's music from Star Trek ("The Cage," "The Conscience of the King," "The Naked Time") and Lost in Space ("The Great Vegetable Rebellion"), among other pieces.
Los Angeles Opera soprano Lori Ann Fuller sang Faure's "Pie Jesu," Robert Burns' "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose" and Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro," with Yulia Levin on piano. Rev. Edward Brandt officiated at the service.