THE parked burgundy Mark 2 Jaguar attracted quite a crowd outside the Royal Albert Hall in London last night.
It was used in all 33 episodes of Inspector Morse, which starred Manchester-born and raised John Thaw.
Inside the concert hall, a sold out audience of 5,000 remembered Morse – and the remarkable actor who played him.
It’s just over 20 years since the first episode of Inspector Morse was screened.
The anniversary will be celebrated in a special weekend of programmes on ITV3 on April 28 & 29.
More about that in next week’s MEN.
The weekend will reach its climax with Morse At The Royal Albert Hall, recorded last night.
The music of Morse was brought to us by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
Lesley Garrett, Sir Willard White and Alfie Boe also sang, while Morse composer Barrington Pheloung guest conducted his main theme.
Hosted by Michael Parkinson, it was a poignant evening for both fans and those who worked on Morse.
The Oxford-based drama finished in 2000, when the Inspector suffered a fatal heart attack.
Some 15 months after that last episode was broadcast, Thaw was also dead – a victim of cancer.
Last night was about remembering Morse, but it was also a tribute to the talent of the man who brought him to life on the screen.
It’s sometimes forgotten just what a radical departure the two-hour Morse films were when they first began.
I spoke to Morse producer Ted Childs at the interval. He recalled how ITV initially ordered just three episodes.
Many executives simply couldn’t see the appeal of a grumpy Oxford detective with a liking for real ale and crosswords.
I also chatted to Kevin Whately, who played Morse’s sidekick Sgt Lewis, now promoted to Inspector for his own ITV1 series.
And Morse author Colin Dexter, whose original creations made it all possible, was there for the night of music and reflection.
John’s wife Sheila Hancock has just finished her run in West End musical Cabaret but did not attend the concert.
Five years after her husband’s death, she has only recently been able to start watching repeat TV screenings of his Morse episodes.
Last night’s event included several clips of Thaw on a big screen and many memories of Morse, so you can understand if that was the reason she stayed away.
Sheila did, however, write in the programme: “We hope you enjoy the concert. In memory of John, The John Thaw Foundation continues to help young people. With best wishes, Sheila Hancock.”
Those clips included Kevin Whately talking about filming with his friend and colleague, Colin Dexter reading from his original novels and actress Patricia Hodge on the “romantic side of Morse”.
Parky spoke of how the Inspector was “still held in great affection – it’s reckoned that one in seven people around the world has seen an episode”.
And acknowledging the applause of the audience, he added: “Nice to praise good telly – it makes a change.”
I was fortunate enough to meet and interview John Thaw many times over the years. He’s still much missed.
But as the programme note said: “Morse may have passed away, but the legend lives on.”
You can watch the concert on ITV3 at 8pm on Sunday April 29 and it will be broadcast on Classic FM at 9pm on Friday May 4.
And for those who couldn’t be there, here’s last night’s programme:
Morse Overture / Vivaldi: Gloria / Parry: I Was Glad / Puccini: O Mio Babbino Caro / Mozart: Laudate Dominum / Pheloung: Inspector Morse Theme / Mozart: Non Piu Andrai / Wagner: The Mastersingers Of Nuremberg – Prelude / Wagner: The Ride Of The Valkyries / Puccini: E Lucevan Le Stelle / Verdi: Libiamo Ne’Lieti Calici (Brindisi) / Elgar: Enigma Variations – Nimrod / Handel: Messiah – Hallelujah Chorus / Mozart: La Ci Darem La Mano / JS Bach: Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring / Faure: Requiem – Libera Me / Haydn: The Creation – The Heavens Are Telling.
John Thaw: Morse At 20
Final Round Of Applause For Morse
Thaw And His Legacy Of Love
John Thaw Site
John Thaw Forum
The John Thaw Foundation c/o 194 Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, TW1 3HY.