Star Wars music maestro John Williams named most popular living composer

John Williams has been named the most popular living composer, as film music has seen a surge in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

The composer, 89, is responsible for some of the most famous movie scores of all time including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones.

He has topped the list of the most popular living composers in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, which is voted for by the public.

The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, inspired by a poem about a skylark, has been named the number one piece of classical music for the third time in a row, as 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of its orchestral premiere.

The top 300 pieces of music in the Classic FM Hall of Fame were played on-air across the Easter weekend, with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart the most popular composer with 16 entries and conductor Debbie Wiseman the most popular British living composer, with four entries.

Some 34 film scores appeared in the chart, up from 28 last year, with Williams’ music for Schindler’s List the most popular film score at number 16.

The American musician has nine entries in the Hall of Fame, including Star Wars at 38, Harry Potter at 46 and Jurassic Park at 66.

His continuing popularity has contributed to a banner year for film composers, with Hans Zimmer recognised for his work including Gladiator, at 35, and Inception, at 116; and John Barry also recognised for scores including Dances With Wolves, at 95, and Out Of Africa at 128.

Wiseman, who has two new entries in the Hall of Fame – The Mythos Suite and Wolf Hall – said: “I’m completely blown away by the results. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me and supported my music.

Debbie Wiseman (Classic FM)
Debbie Wiseman (Classic FM)

“It’s very gratifying to know that alongside all those wonderful works by the truly great composers, there is a place in the hearts of the public for new music, whether written for film, TV or the concert hall.”

Among the other 48 new and re-entries are Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s arrangement of Deep River, War Song by the Scottish composer Phamie Gow, Elmer Bernstein’s scores for The Magnificent Seven and To Kill A Mockingbird, as well as Eimear Quinn’s In Paradisum.

Classic FM presenter John Suchet, who announced the top spot in the Hall of Fame, said: “Ever since we launched the Classic FM Hall of Fame 25 years ago, it has given us an unrivalled insight into the nation’s evolving tastes in classical music.

“After the year that we’ve all experienced, with many of us watching more films at home than ever before, it is perhaps no surprise that movie music is at a record high, representing 11% of the total chart.

“It is also clear that alongside the all-time favourites, there is a growing popularity of new classical music for film, television, video games and concerts – and with it, a new and younger audience.

“As a station which believes that classical music is for everyone, regardless of your age or background, this is music to our ears.”