Beckenham composer Carey Blyton put music to the tale of Tolkien’s Hobbit
09:23 27 December 2012
Telling the story of one hairy-footed halfling’s travels across Middle Earth with 13 dwarves and a wizard has taken Hollywood director Peter Jackson nine hours on the big screen.
For Beckenham composer Carey Blyton the feat was accomplished in just four minutes.
His Hobbit Overture, created almost 50 years before the film, is widely accepted as the first musical interpretation of the novel and was given author Tolkien’s blessing.
In 1963, the nephew of renowned children’s author Enid Blyton wrote to Tolkien for his permission and received the following reply: “As an author I am honoured to hear that I have inspired a composer.
“I have long hoped to do so, and hoped also that I might perhaps find the result intelligible to me, or feel that I was akin to my own inspiration.”
The piece would be performed locally, though it wouldn’t reach the success of Carey’s best known composition – Bananas in Pyjamas.
Carey was a prominent figure in the Beckenham music scene, says director of music at Beckenham Junior Choir, John Webber.
“He had a lot to do with music locally in his early days with the Beckenham Salon, which was a group of talented musicians and poets in the early 1950s,” he said. “Later on he had commercial success with Bananas in Pyjamas, which I believe he wrote for his kids in the car one day, but unfortunately the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) own the rights to that.
“The Hobbit was one of the many micro-pieces he composed and was characteristically clever and to the point.
“I met him through music and he was a very funny man – that often comes through in his music.”
Born in 1932, Carey battled polio as a boy and would eventually succumb to the illness at the age of 70.
Beckenham historian Cliff Watkins came across Carey while writing a book on the area’s famous residents and struck up a friendship.
Cliff remembers a certain “Dalek” quality to Carey who also composed much of the Dr Who music in the early 1970s, but who had become restricted to a wheelchair having moved from Beckenham to Suffolk.
Cliff said: “I’m not sure I ever told him that, but he really did seem to move automatically.
“He invited me to his home and we discussed his work. The Hobbit is the complete story of Bilbo’s journey and Carey got there before any film. He didn’t have great success with the piece and if The Hobbit movie was 100 on the scale of notoriety, his overture would be down at one.
“But I have arranged for it to be performed here in his home town and the legacy of his music does continue.”
The composer was encouraged to continue his career in music by his aunt Enid.
Bananas in Pyjamas would go on to make more for the ABC than her character Noddy made for the BBC.
Carey Blyton was honoured by a civic reception in Beckenham in 2002 but was too ill to attend and died in July that year.
The successful Blyton pair are currently the focus of an exhibition at Central Library in High Street, Bromley, that Cliff helped to curate.
Carey’s Aunt and Enid’s Nephew is free to enter and runs until February 8.