William P. Perry

William P. Perry

William P. Perry
Born 1930
Elmira, New York
Occupation Composer, Television producer

William P. Perry is an American composer and television producer.

Life and career

Born in Elmira, New York in 1930, he attended Harvard University[1] and studied with Paul Hindemith, Walter Piston, and Randall Thompson. His music has been performed by the Chicago Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Detroit Symphony and the symphonic orchestras of Cincinnati, Minnesota, Montreal, Calgary and Hartford as well as the Vienna Symphony, the Rome Philharmonic, the Slovak Philharmonic, the RTÉ National Symphony of Ireland and other orchestras in Europe.

For twelve years, Perry was the music director and composer-in-residence at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he composed and performed as a pianist more than two hundred scores for the Museum's silent film collection.[2][3] His subsequent PBS television series, "The Silent Years" (1971,1975) hosted by Orson Welles and Lillian Gish, won an Emmy Award.[4] Perry is often credited with having played a major role in the revival of interest in classic silent films.[5][6]

For three years (1976–1978) he produced a national poetry series for PBS called "Anyone for Tennyson?",[7][8] starring Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Claire Bloom, William Shatner and Vincent Price among others.[9] Fifty programs were presented over three seasons with more than three hundred poets represented.[10] From these programs, he later developed and produced the four-part DVD series, "The Poetry Hall of Fame", which he also hosted.

He was executive producer and composed the music for the Peabody Award-winning "Mark Twain Series" of feature films on PBS (1980–1985).[11][12] These films, produced by Perry's Great Amwell Company in association with the Nebraska ETV Network, also won five Cine Golden Eagle Awards.[13] Novelist Kurt Vonnegut introduced the series,[14] which began with "Life on the Mississippi"[15] and culminated with a four-hour adaptation of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."[16][17] This version for the first time emphasized the darker realities of the book.[18][19]

His Broadway musical, "Wind in the Willows",[20][21] starring Nathan Lane, won him Tony nominations for both music and lyrics (1986).[22]

Perry's dramatizations of the works of Mark Twain have included a staged musical biography, "Mark Twain: The Musical", that ran for ten summers (1987–1995) in Elmira, NY and Hartford, CT.[23][24] PBS produced a television version of the show. LML Music recently issued a CD of the complete original cast recording.

His most prominent symphonic compositions include the Jamestown Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2007),[25][26] written to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first permanent colony in America in Jamestown, Virginia. It was released on CD by Naxos Records with Yehuda Hanani as soloist and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Eddins. His Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra was written for and recorded by Armando Ghitalla[27] with the composer conducting.[28] A Naxos recording called "Music for Great Films of the Silent Era" includes his Three Rhapsodies for Piano and Orchestra, the Gemini Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, written for the Albek Duo, and the suite, Six Title Themes in Search of a Movie.[29] A second Naxos release, "Music for Great Films of the Silent Era - Part 2" includes the song suite Silent Film Heroines with mezzo soprano Wallis Giunta; the Summer Nocturne for Flute and Orchestra with Timothy Hutchins as soloist; a Concerto for Ophicleide and Orchestra called Brass From the Past performed by Nick Byrne; and a World War One commemorative tone poem based on the film Hearts of the World. For both silent film recordings, Paul Phillips conducted the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

William Perry's music can also be found on the Opus, Premier, and Bridge labels. It is published by Trobriand Music Company.

Perry's background includes directorial and production experience in the formative years of television, writing script material for Lux Video Theatre and working with Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and other entertainment icons.[30] He directed the first color commercial to be broadcast live coast-to-coast ("The Price is Right") and the first musical commercial ever produced and broadcast on videotape ("The Jackie Gleason Show").

In addition to his film and musical work, William Perry has maintained a separate business life. In 2000, he and his wife, Marina Perry, founded Right Face Ltd., a skin care company distributing products throughout the world under the brand name Rosacea Care. Their company now has one of the world's largest and most comprehensive line of skin care products for rosacea and sensitive skin.[31]

Over the years William Perry has won more than a dozen ASCAP Awards for his musical compositions, and in 1984 Elmira College conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his contributions to the field of Mark Twain studies.[32]

List of works

Stage musicals

Film and television scores

Silent film scores (selection)

Major orchestral works

Recent Discography


  1. Harvard Class of 1951 http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/07/in-their-nations-service.html
  2. Women's Wear Daily February 7, 1972 Feature about Perry's music at the Museum of Modern Art.
  3. The Boston Globe November 1, 1972 Review by Michael Steinberg
  4. Encyclopedia of American Television 1970-71 New York Area Emmy Award: Governors Award
  5. Hartford Courant June 23, 1996 Cover Story "The Musical Man" by music critic Steve Metcalf
  6. New York Times September 4, 2009 an appreciation by Bruce Eder.
  7. TV Guide January 3, 1976 William Perry, Executive Producer
  8. Time Magazine January 19, 1976,
  9. Lincoln Journal Star October 25, 2004
  10. Seattle Times May 20, 1976.
  11. George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award http://www.peabody.uga.edu/winners/PeabodyWinnersBook.pdf 1981 The Great Amwell Company
  12. Fanfare Magazine Sept./Oct.2008 Review of William Perry's Mark Twain scores by Colin Clarke
  13. Cine Golden Eagle Awards http://www.cine.org/archives/winner-archives/index.php 1981, 1983(2),1984, 1986
  14. LeMaster and Wilson, The Mark Twain Encyclopedia Media Interpretations Of Mark Twain's Life and Works
  15. Variety November 25, 1980 "A splendid adaptation"
  16. USA Today February 10, 1986 Review
  17. New York Post "All-star cast"
  18. Haupt, Huckleberry Finn on Film: Film and Television Adaptations of Mark Twain's Novel
  19. Baltimore Sun February 10, 1986 Mark Twain and the American Dream
  20. New York Magazine October 31, 1983
  21. Washington Post August 8, 1983 Out-of-Town Review by David Richards
  22. Broadway World Magazine http://broadwayworld.com/tonyawardsyear.cfm?year=1986
  23. New York Times June 28, 1987 "An extravaganza of singing, acting and dancing"
  24. New York Daily News August 7, 1996 Review by Howard Kissel
  25. The Strad Magazine, December 2008 Review by Joanne Talbot
  26. Music Web International December 2008 Review by Bob Briggs
  27. Berkshire Eagle October 4, 2007 Musicologist Andrew Pincus reviews Ghitalla's performance of Perry trumpet music
  28. Fanfare Magazine February 2008 review
  29. Naxos Records Press Release http://www.naxos.com/news/default.asp?op=785&displayMenu=Naxos_News&type=2
  30. Harris, Always on Sunday. Ed Sullivan: An Inside View. Meredith Press
  31. London Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/gallery-1003190/10-OF-THE-BEST-SUMMER-SKIN-PRODUCTS.html
  32. Oswego Valley News William Perry Litt.D. addresses Elmira College graduates
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