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Giles Woodforde


Colin Dexter's Memorial Service

Giles Woodforde is a long-time resident of Kidlington Village and was once a familiar voice to listeners of BBC Radio Oxford. He is best known as a feature writer and reviewer for the Performing Arts for The Oxford Times newspaper. Here, Giles recalls his invitation to attend Colin Dexter's Memorial Service which was held on Thursday 26th April 2018 at Christ Church Catherdral Oxford; the service was followed by a reception for around 300 guests at Oxford's Town Hall.

Part 1 of 3

Colin Dexter's Memorial Service, 26 April 2018.

“Morse by Barrington Pheloung” said the scores sitting on the music stands as we entered Christ Church Cathedral. It was the first sign that we were not attending a regular Cathedral event: this was the memorial service for Colin Dexter, the creator of Oxford’s very own Inspector Morse.

Portait of Colin Dexter (2011) by Celia Montague.

Several months in the planning, the service brought together a wide variety of “contributors” to reflect on Colin Dexter’s many interests and enthusiasms. Dr Eve Poole recalled her childhood memories of Colin: “Distributing Jelly Babies, telling classical jokes, and always laughing”. Jonathan Crowther reminded us that Colin was a “master craftsman” compiler of crossword puzzles. Peter Waine, Chairman of the Housman Society, recalled Colin’s love of the poet A E Housman – and his perhaps equal love of real ale.

Part 2 of 3

But it was, of course, Morse that made Colin Dexter world famous.

Kevin Whately, who played the long-suffering Sergeant Lewis in the Morse TV series, reminded us that Colin created an entire TV industry, with much employment for actors, writers, and technicians, through Morse and its spin-off series Lewis and Endeavour - although “the crossword clues went over our heads”. Kevin Whately also recalled that Colin made cameo appearances in many of the TV episodes, beginning with a role as a college scout: “It was not very successful, he was like a tin soldier. But he soon relaxed and improved as an actor.” As the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, put it when he summed up Colin Dexter and Morse in his Address: “We are celebrating the man who has turned Oxford into the murder capital of Europe”.

©   John Thaw, Colin Dexter, Kevin Whatley.

Part 3 of 3

Music ranged from the Beatles on tape to Mozart’s Laudate Dominum, movingly sung by soprano Janis Kelly and the Cathedral Choir. But the most moving moment of all came right at the end when the composer of the music for Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, Barrington Pheloung (who had flown from Australia for the occasion) and his Players, quietly delivered the Morse theme tune. It was just the right conclusion – even though Inspector Morse would no doubt have insisted on a blast of his beloved Wagner.

Barrington Pheloung (above right) composed the theme tune to Inspector Morse, its music lovingly reproduced by his String Players in Christ Church Cathedral. Colin Dexter looks on, over a pint of real ale.

Giles Woodforde

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