Francis Monkman obituary


Francis Monkman, who has died of most cancers aged 73, was a gifted classically skilled musician who introduced his technical abilities and eclectic tastes to a wealthy number of tasks. These included stints with Curved Air and with the guitarist John Williams’s classical-crossover band Sky, in addition to collaborations with artists together with Renaissance, Kate Bush, Brian Eno and the Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera. Monkman’s much-admired soundtrack for John Mackenzie’s The Lengthy Good Friday (1980) was an integral a part of the movie’s success, and prompted him to go away Sky to focus on different soundtracks. His enjoying additionally featured on quite a few movie scores, together with Raiders of the Misplaced Ark (1981) and the James Bond movies The Spy Who Liked Me (1977) and Reside and Let Die (1973).

A part of Britain’s late-Nineteen Sixties progressive rock growth, Curved Air blended rock music with varied classical influences, and gave Monkman his first style of standard success. When the band began, he was nonetheless in the midst of his classical music diploma. Nonetheless, he was starting to really feel the lure of rock music, and whereas his predominant instrument was keyboards, he additionally realized to play guitar, partly impressed by the fretboard pyrotechnics of Jimi Hendrix.

“Curved Air began in about 1969,” he recalled. “That dovetailed with the tip of research on the Royal Academy of Music. I needed to determine between the second half of my [bachelor of music] and occurring the highway. It wasn’t a really laborious choice.”

Curved Air advanced out of Sisyphus, which had been shaped by Monkman and the violinist Darryl Manner, who had studied on the Royal Faculty of Music. The road-up was accomplished by the drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa, the bass participant Rob Martin and the pianist Nick Simon. They have been subsequently joined by the vocalist Sonja Kristina, whereas Simon stop. At Monkman’s instigation they adopted their new title, derived from the American minimalist composer Terry Riley’s composition A Rainbow in Curved Air. Monkman had turn into a Riley fan when he performed within the first London efficiency of the composer’s piece, In C.

In 1970 Curved Air grew to become the primary British group signed to Warner Bros. Their debut album, Air Conditioning, was launched in November that 12 months. Its achieved and novel mixture of rock songs and classically influenced items, notably the rock-baroque hybrid Vivaldi, helped it attain No 8 on the UK album chart.

It accrued further publicity by being one of many earliest image discs, although was subsequently reissued on standard vinyl. The group’s defining Second Album (1971) reached No 11 on the chart, and contained their best-remembered track, Again Avenue Luv, a No 4 UK single, offering them with an look on High of the Pops.

Their third album, Phantasmagoria (1972), was praised in lots of quarters as their most interesting hour, although it solely made it to No 20, and it marked the tip of Monkman’s stint with the group, not least as a result of his enthusiasm for prolonged musical improvisations jarred badly towards Manner’s fastidious perfectionism. “Darryl and I respect one another’s work, however we don’t actually see eye to eye on most issues,” he stated. Additionally, regardless of their success, the group was struggling financially. In 1974 Monkman rejoined them quickly for a tour, with the target of paying off Curved Air’s tax liabilities, which was recorded for the album Reside (1975).

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The band 801, with Brian Eno (second left), Monkman (third proper) and Phil Manzanera (proper). {Photograph}: GAB Archive/Redferns

Monkman was born in Hampstead, north London, the son of the BBC producer and scriptwriter Kenneth Monkman and his spouse, Vita (nee Duncombe Mann). Each mother and father have been music lovers, they usually had a harpsichord made for his or her son.

After attending Hill Home prep faculty in Knightsbridge (the place Prince Charles was a up to date), Monkman went to Westminster faculty, the place he studied harpsichord and organ. Whereas nonetheless there he would generally play the organ at morning providers in Westminster Abbey. Then he went to the Royal Academy of Music, the place his experience on the harpsichord gained him the Raymond Russell prize. He additionally joined Neville Marriner’s Academy of St Martin within the Fields chamber ensemble.

After he left Curved Air, Monkman exercised his abilities in a wide range of instructions. He performed on Renaissance’s album Prologue (1972), and labored with Lynsey de Paul and Al Stewart. In 1976 he teamed up with Eno and Manzanera to kind 801. The band solely performed three reveals, however the ensuing album, 801 Reside, grew to become a cult success internationally.

He performed organ and harpsichord on Kate Bush’s album Lionheart, with the Shadows on their 20 Golden Greats tour in 1977, and performed keyboards on Voyage, the solo album by the Shadows drummer Brian Bennett. In between, he discovered time to present classical harpsichord recitals.

Monkman was recruited to Sky after he had performed on Williams’s solo album Travelling (1978), and he stayed with the group lengthy sufficient to characteristic on their albums Sky and Sky 2 (1979 and 1980). His musical experience and wide-ranging tastes dovetailed completely with the group’s adventures in rock, classical and jazz types, and their debut album reached No 9 within the UK, whereas Sky 2 made it to No 1, additionally promoting strongly all over the world. Monkman was one of many band’s predominant composers, contributing, amongst different items, the four-part, 17-minute suite Fifo to Sky 2. He appeared on High of the Pops once more when Sky’s single Toccata – an association of Bach prominently that includes Monkman’s harpsichord – reached No 5 within the UK.

In his later years Monkman launched albums together with Dweller on the Threshold (1981) and twenty first Century Blues (2001). In 2021 he revisited his long-standing ardour for organ and harpsichord by releasing The Bach Household, a set of organ items by JS Bach and different members of the Bach musical dynasty.

Within the 70s he married Uiko Chida, however they subsequently divorced. Their daughter, Maya, died in a highway accident. Monkman is survived by his companion, Christine.


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