Colin Tully obituary

Other lives: Musician who wrote the score to the film Gregory’s Girl

My friend and neighbour Colin Tully, who has died of cancer aged 66, was a composer and instrumentalist who wrote the music for two films, That Sinking Feeling (1979) and Gregory’s Girl (1980).

In a musical career that had to share time with his parallel vocation as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, Colin was a member of the Glasgow soul and funk band Cado Belle, played and recorded with the folk singer and guitarist John Martyn, and accompanied Ireland’s Eurovision-winning entry of 1980, Johnny Logan’s What’s Another Year?, appearing with him at the finals in The Hague. The entertaining story of these and other episodes is told in a book, Earworm, which Colin managed to complete just before his death.

Earworm includes an account of Colin’s writing of the score for Gregory’s Girl, during which the director, Bill Forsyth, brought a VHS tape of the film down to him in Totnes, Devon, where he was then living, so that he could work on the composition. However, it turned out that Colin had neither a video player nor even a television, and so they had to go to the nearby Dartington College to screen it. The completed music is a low-budget marvel of taut jazz-funk and memorable melodies, with Colin’s soulful soprano saxophone a standout.

Colin was born in Shawlands, Glasgow, to Arthur Tully, a sales representative for the Fry’s chocolate company, and his wife, Noreen (nee Hackwood). Arthur was also an organist and choirmaster at St Ninian’s church in Pollokshields, where Colin became a choirboy. He attended Hutcheson’s grammar school in the city, and then did a music degree at Glasgow University.

A saxophonist, flautist and pianist, he first discovered the Alexander Technique when he took a lesson from the principal flautist of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Paul Kingsley, who advised him that he should try the technique to relax his posture when playing.

After leaving Glasgow following the break up of Cado Belle in 1979, Colin lived briefly in Dublin, then Totnes, before relocating in 1990 to Bristol, where he met and married a fellow Alexander teacher, Julia Green, in 1993. After becoming assistant director of the Bristol Alexander School in 1996, in 2002 he moved with his family to the village of Hendre in Monmouthshire, where he remained until his death.

It was in Hendre that Colin composed another major work, writing a community opera, Charlie Rolls, about the life of the pioneer aviator and co-founder of Rolls-Royce. He also formed a Celtic jazz group, Sensorium, and in 2012 they performed a suite of music from Gregory’s Girl at the Glasgow jazz festival. His most recent group, the Nuadha Quartet, for whom he played keyboards, appeared frequently in Wales.

He is survived by Julia, by their children, Ailsa and Merryn, and by Nuala and Layla, daughters from his first marriage, to Anna Slater, which ended in divorce.

Philip Johnson

The GuardianTramp

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