Friday, May 30, 2008

Alexander Courage – 1919-2008

You may not know the name of Alexander Courage, but I’ll bet you know his most famous piece of music.

Alexander “Sandy” Courage, an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated arranger, orchestrator and composer who created the otherworldly theme for the classic “Star Trek” TV show, has died. He was 88.

Courage died May 15 at the Sunrise assisted-living facility in Pacific Palisades, his stepdaughter Renata Pompelli of Los Angeles, said Thursday. He had been in poor health for three years.

Over a decades-long career, Courage collaborated on dozens of movies and orchestrated some of the greatest musicals of the 1950s and 1960s, including “My Fair Lady,” “Hello, Dolly!” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “Gigi,” “Porgy and Bess” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

But his most famous work is undoubtedly the “Star Trek” theme, which he composed, arranged and conducted in a week in 1965.

“I have to confess to the world that I am not a science fiction fan,” Courage said in an interview for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television in 2000. “Never have been. I think it’s just marvelous malarkey. … So you write some, you hope, marvelous malarkey music that goes with it.”

Courage said the tune, with its ringing fanfare, eerie soprano part and swooping orchestration, was inspired by an arrangement of the song “Beyond the Blue Horizon” he heard as a youngster.

“Little did I know when I wrote that first A-flat for the flute that it was going to go down in history, somehow,” Courage said. “It’s a very strange feeling.”

Courage said he also mouthed the “whooshing” sound heard as the starship Enterprise zooms through the opening credits of the TV show.

Go boldly, Mr. Courage.

(HT to Petulant.)