York pays tribute to one of its sons – and one of the musical greats – on Sunday. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.

WHAT better title could there be for a tribute song to the late, great John Barry than The Music Man? For decades, the Oscar-winning composer’s music lit up the film world. He left us with some of the most enduring film soundtracks of all time – including several classic Bond themes, Midnight Cowboy, Out Of Africa and Dances With Wolves. A Music Man indeed.

The lyrics of Steve Cassidy’s song – which will be performed at the York Barbican on Sunday at a concert to celebrate the composer’s life and work – pays unashamed tribute to Barry’s cinematic as well as musical legacy.

“He learned to love the cinema at his father’s knee,” goes the first verse.

“Its glamour and its romance were to be his destiny, “He would write the melodies that made a film complete, “He would say in music the words no one could speak, “The Music Man”

Steve – real name Norman Fowler, the retired head teacher of St George’s RC Primary School in York – was the ideal man to write such a song.

As a young teenager and wannabe musician, his ‘little group’ was managed by Jack Prendergast, Barry’s formidable father.

Prendergast senior cut a distinctive figure in his trademark trilby and was a legend himself, in York at least: the charismatic entrepreneur who ran the Rialto, York’s iconic cinema/concert venue.

And, just as he had with his own son’s John Barry Seven, Prendergast put Norman and his band up on stage at the Rialto, where they played support to some of the biggest stars of the day, such as Cliff Richard and Adam Faith.

Norman then went down to London to make a record with Barry himself, a song entitled simply Ecstasy.

It was Barry who came up with the stage name Norman has used ever since. “He said, ‘We’re going to call you Steve Cassidy. I hope you’re okay with it: it’s on the record label’.”

The record did quite well – in Greece, of all places, where it became a hit, Norman says.

Norman/Steve stayed with Barry in London for a while, at his flat in Cadogan Square, off the King’s Road, the most happening part of London.

Barry moved in a rarefied circle of famous friends.

“I went to restaurants with him, where there were very famous people like Joan Collins and Terry (Terence) Stamp.” Even in such company, Barry stood out, a man always at the centre of things.

It is a huge honour for Norman to be playing at Sunday’s tribute concert. “I feel privileged to have been associated with him and to have known him as a friend,” he says.

He and his band, the Steve Cassidy Group, will play some original John Barry Seven numbers: as well as Ecstasy, that song he recorded with Barry.

Also taking part in the concert, which begins at 7pm, will be Johnny De Little (supported by the Steve Cassidy Band); the York Guildhall Orchestra; the York Railway Institute Band; members of York community choirs Millegro and Prima Vocal Ensemble; and singer Jo Pears.

It promises to be an eclectic mix: which is no doubt just as Barry himself would have liked it.

• York celebrates John Barry, 7pm, Sunday, York Barbican. Sold out. Proceeds go to the Lord Mayor of York’s charities, York Against Cancer and York & District MIND.