Ian Fraser was an award-winning composer, arranger and music director who worked widely in theater, film and television for more than 50 years. His 32 Emmy nominations and 11 wins made him the most honored musician in television history.
Born in Hove, England, in 1933, Fraser served for five years in the British military, during which he performed as a solo concert pianist, harpist and percussionist with the renowned Royal Artillery Band and Orchestra. Following his service, he established himself as a pianist and arranger in the London music world of the 1950s.
While working for Decca Records, he began an association with actor-singer-songwriter Anthony Newley, who hired him as arranger and musical director for the hit musical Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, a collaboration with composer Leslie Bricusse. When the London production moved to Broadway in 1962, Fraser relocated to New York with it.
When the show's run ended, he remained in the United States to continue his career. In 1965, he and Bricusse worked together again for the Broadway musical Pickwick.
In 1966 he moved to Los Angeles to work on the musical film Doctor Dolittle. His other films in the years that followed included Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Scrooge — for which he received an Oscar nomination — as well as Hopscotch, Zorro: The Gay Blade and First Monday in October.
Fraser's 32 Emmy nominations included 31 listed below, plus one from the National Academy. His 11 Emmy wins included America Salutes Richard Rodgers: The Sound of His Music, The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots, Baryshnikov on Broadway, Linda in Wonderland and two Christmas in Washington specials — an annual event he conducted numerous times.
He was also musical director for several Television Academy Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, as well as the 1984, 1993 and 2002 Emmy Awards.
In addition to his Oscar nomination for the 1970 release Scrooge, Fraser conducted the 1984 Oscar telecast. He made his debut as a guest conductor with the Boston Pops in 1992.
One of his most enduring professional relationships was with singer-actress Julie Andrews, which began in 1972 when he was vocal arranger for The Julie Andrews Hour, her Emmy-winning ABC weekly variety series. He became Andrews’s musical director the following year, when they recorded the first of two Christmas albums, followed by five television specials, including Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas, for which he won an Emmy.
In 1995, after a 30-year respite, Fraser returned to Broadway with Andrews to conduct the stage adaptation of her hit film Victor/Victoria. In July 2008 he conducted two concerts at the Hollywood Bowl with Andrews, which included the symphonic premiere of her children’s musical Simeon’s Gift, for which he composed the music.
Fraser's other career highlights included music direction of two Presidential Inaugural Galas, and he was the last person to conduct the holiday classic "White Christmas" for Bing Crosby, for Crosby's final 1977 Christmas special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas. On the program, he also collaborated in the writing of the duet "Peace on Earth" for Crosby and David Bowie. Written as a counterpoint to "The Little Drummer Boy," the recording is still played on radio stations worldwide every Christmas season, and it was included in a 2002 Virgin Records Christmas album, which sold over two million copies.
A devoted member of the Television Academy for more than three decades, Fraser served 10 terms as a governor of the Academy's Music peer group. He also served as president of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers.
Fraser died October 31, 2014. He was 81.