Ian Fraser, whose 11 Emmy Awards and 21 additional nominations made him the most-honored musician in television history, died of complications from cancer Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.
All of Fraser’s Emmy noms and wins were in the music direction category, for supervising and conducting television specials, including 14 of the annual “Christmas in Washington” events over the past 30 years.
Fraser was also in his 10th term as a governor of the Television Academy. He conducted the 1984, 1993 and 2002 Emmy shows, as well as the 1984 Oscar telecast, and served as musical director for many of the TV Academy’s Hall of Fame ceremonies.
He was also nominated for a 1970 Oscar for adapting Leslie Bricusse’s song score for “Scrooge.”
Fraser had long professional relationships with Bricusse as well as with Julie Andrews and with Anthony Newley.
Fraser was born in Hove, England, in 1933, and served in the Royal Artillery band and orchestra as pianist, harpist and military-band percussionist. In the late 1950s he worked as a pianist in London nightclubs and began a career as an arranger.
He first worked with singer-songwriter Anthony Newley in 1960, arranging his songs and adapting his theatrical ventures including, with Bricusse, “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off,” which he supervised and orchestrated for Broadway in 1962.
Also for Broadway, he later conducted Bricusse’s “Pickwick” in 1965 and Henry Mancini and Bricusse’s stage version of their film hit “Victor/Victoria” in 1995.
His film career began in 1965 as vocal supervisor for the musical “Doctor Dolittle” and as associate musical supervisor on “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” both of which sported Bricusse song scores.
Fraser’s professional association with Julie Andrews started with his work as vocal arranger for her 1972 ABC variety series. They later did five TV specials, two Christmas albums and two Broadway albums together, with Fraser arranging and conducting the music.
He served as musical director on dozens of TV specials beginning in the mid-1970s, many of them produced by the team of Dwight Hemion and Gary Smith.
He won Emmys for “America Salutes Richard Rodgers,” “Ben Vereen: His Roots,” “Baryshnikov on Broadway,” Linda Lavin’s “Linda in Wonderland,” “SAG 50th Anniversary Celebration,” two of the “Christmas in Washington” specials, “Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas,” a “Great Performances” Julie Andrews concert, the “American Teacher Awards” and the “52nd Presidential Inaugural Gala.”
Fraser was the last person to conduct “White Christmas” for Bing Crosby, on Crosby’s final TV special in 1977. He also scored several films including “Hopscotch,” “First Monday in October” and “Zorro, the Gay Blade.”
Survivors include his wife Judee, three children, five grandchildren, a brother and a sister.
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.
Born: 8/23/1933, Have, England, U.K.
Died: 10/31/2014, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Ian Fraser’s western – composer:
Zorro the Gay Blade - 1981