Arthur Benjamin joined the ranks of some of Britain’s finest composing talent, being recruited by Muir Mathieson to write music for films in the 1930s. This illustrated talk by Australian composer and pianist Wendy Hiscocks celebrates Benjamin’s valuable contribution to British Film on the fiftieth anniversary of his death and includes excerpts from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, Walker’s Turn of the Tide and Mathieson’s Steps of the Ballet. A large section of Conquest of Everest will also be screened.
The start-time will be 7.30 p.m.

Programme Notes

Thursday, 11th March 2010



An illustrated talk by Wendy Hiscocks

Arthur Benjamin (b. 18th September 1893 in Australia, d. 10th April 1960) joined the ranks of some of Britain’s finest composing talent, being recruited by Muir Mathieson to write music for films in the 1930s. His first feature film, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), was written at a time when composing music for sound pictures was a relatively new art form and people such as Benjamin were regarded as pioneers. This presentation surveys his contribution to British film music and is illustrated with extracts from the films. These are expected to include:

  • Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934) starring Peter Lorre, Pierre Fresnay, Edna Best and Leslie Banks, set in London, with a thrilling climax in the Albert Hall. Widely considered far superior to Hitchcock’s own 1957 remake (with Doris Day).
  • Walker’s TURN OF THE TIDE (1935), J Arthur Rank’s first film, a Romeo and Juliet story set in Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby. Edited by David Lean.
  • Mathieson’s STEPS OF THE BALLET (1948), produced by the Crown Film Unit with Robert Helpmann as presenter.
  • Lowe’s THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST (1953), with Hunt, Hillary, Tensing et al. MacNeice commentary.

Wendy Hiscocks is an Australian-born composer-pianist who has made London her home since 1987. She is the writer and presenter of an Australian radio documentary celebrating the life and music of Arthur Benjamin.

This evening’s programme is an ABCD event in our annual programme, but is also in the 2010 Abingdon Arts Festival. If this is your first ABCD event, please take a copy of our annual programme and one of the various flyers on display at the from of the theatre. You are very welcome to attend any of our future events.



1903 8min silent from BFI archive featuring piano accompaniment by Wendy Hiscocks.

“Probably as entertaining as some of the more recent versions of the tale, although this scruffy short boasted the glummest Cheshire cat ever! Worth waiting for a restored version.”

“I preferred Tim Burton’s”


64min extract of 1953 colour documentary (dir: George Lowe, rt: 78mins)

“Gripping and true. The music fitted perfectly.”

“A triumph of film, music and climbing!”

“Very impressive!”

“Impressive film, with beautiful, very good evocative music”

“An epic challenge – music was OK”


by Wendy Hiscocks

“Excellent talk by Wendy”

“A very lively and interesting introduction”

“An excellent talk and film accompaniment by Wendy – well done! Maybe we could have one of the other films in a future programme.”

“An interesting evening of film clips. Perhaps we could have a film from the selection on the ProgNote, with music by Benjamin.”

“A wonderful evening of entertainment – most original”

“Great evening – entertaining and informative”

“Excellent evening – thanks!”

“A fascinating evening of film and music”

“A refreshingly different evening, which opened up a whole new world”

“Informative and interesting and made you want to appreciate the films he had done, particularly Conquest of Everest

“A very interesting and enjoyable evening, with a range of films and styles”

“Very well presented and interesting”


A:25, B:13, C:0, D:0, E:0 to give 91%