How We Met: Terry Jones & Geoffrey Burgon

'We're both very concerned about creating things. It's our primary interest'
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The Independent Online

Film, television and classical composer Geoffrey Burgon (right), 65, wrote the scores for Life of Brian, Brideshead Revisited and won Baftas for Longitude and The Forsyte Saga. He also had a top-40 hit with his "Nunc dimittis" from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. He lives near Stroud.

Terry and I have known each other for nearly 50 years. His big brother, Nigel, was my best mate at school and I went round to their house quite a lot. It was a typical suburban middle-class home. I remember his father as a rather sweet, fairly quiet man. His mother was very warm and friendly.

Nigel and I were crazy about jazz so we either played together in his bedroom - me on my trumpet and he on his clarinet - or we'd listened to jazz records. I always thought Terry seemed quite bright, but he was two or three years younger than Nigel, and kept out of the way, I don't think he was interested in jazz anyway.

After we'd left school, though, Terry and I used to meet socially over the years. When Monty Python started he became terribly famous, but he never let it go to his head. He was still Terry, Nigel's younger brother. Then he asked me to write the music for Life of Brian, which came completely out of the blue. I'd written lots of choral and orchestral music and he said he thought that was enough. I'd written one film score by then and had just done Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, so I was getting quite a reputation as a composer.

I thought what Life of Brian needed was a real biblical-epic score. He liked what I did, but we did have some tussles - there were places where he wanted the music to be comic rather than serious. I hate to admit it, but I think he was right. So we re-recorded two or three scenes.

We go back such a long way, he actually feels like he's part of the family. Sadly, Nigel died about 13 years ago. I went to the funeral and played some jazz at the church and spoke about him.

We meet quite often now for dinner in Black's, the private members' club in London that he belongs to. He does like his wine and is very knowledgeable about it. He can knock back a lot more than I can, too. Our meetings are pretty convivial.

I'm always glad to see him and think it's a real pity that we don't see more of each other. It's the damn thing of me living in Gloucestershire. I think if I lived in town we'd see each other monthly. Terry's funny, very warm and always very good company. We laugh a lot when we're together. He enjoys the ridiculous and silly aspects of things, although he's actually a very serious and intelligent bloke. He's really into left-wing politics.

We're now talking about doing a musical together. He's got a bizarre imagination and starting from scratch, the possibilities will be endless.

The comedian, screenwriter, director, and TV host Terry Jones, 64, grew up in Guildford. A founder member of Monty Python, he went on to co-direct three Python films, including Life of Brian. More recently, he has written books and presented TV documentaries on medieval and ancient history and has been a vocal opponent of the Iraq war. Married with two children, he lives in north London.

I don't really remember meeting Geoff for the first time. He was a friend of my older brother, Nigel. I remember seeing him playing in my brother's jazz band when he was discovering this amazing musical talent. He always seemed very gentle and approachable. But with your older brother's friends, you don't get too close.

Our friendship developed later when we did Life of Brian. I think Nige probably said: "Why don't you get Geoff to write the music?" I thought it was a good idea: I'd listened to some of his music and thought it sounded terrific. It proved to be a wonderful idea; you couldn't imagine the film with any other music. I was a bit worried about the climax though. I wanted more tension as they were going up to the crosses. I took some horns from somewhere else, slowed them down and slid them in. I don't know whether Geoff has ever noticed.

I've seen a lot more of Geoff since Nige died. It's partly to do with going to the funeral and hearing him talk about my brother and realising how much Nige had meant to him. You become closer to someone in circumstances like that.

Geoff's such a nice chap. He's a good listener, a good talker and he's interested in things. It's funny how you feel an affinity with someone. I think I've always felt one with him. We have a similar outlook on life. We are both very concerned about creating things. It's our primary interest in life.

We haven't worked together since Life of Brian because I've been doing things that Geoff wouldn't really want to do music for, such as documentaries. It would be nice to get a musical going with him, perhaps a musical version of a Shakespeare play.

Geoff doesn't seem to change: he's very calm, very understanding and very considerate. I admire his dedication to just doing what he wants to do in music, and the way he's organised his life to enable him to do that. He always seems a fortunate person. He's one of the people who you think, "Great! It's Geoff." I see myself as fortunate, too. I think that's perhaps why we have a similar outlook.

We don't need to see each other often because we know each other is there. When we see each other, we pick up where we left off. I just love him, really.

'Burgon: Choral Music', a collection of Geoffrey Burgon's choral work featuring Wells Cathedral Choir, is released on Hyperion Records

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