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Death of musician who played with The Beatles

A TRUMPET player who lent his talents to two of the most recognisable themes in cinema history and played on one of The Beatles' best-known hits has died.

As principal cornet player with the London Symphony Orchestra former Norland musician William Lang played on the theme to the first Star Wars film in 1977 and Superman: The Movie the following year.

Mr Lang, who died on December 14, aged 87, from lung cancer at Harrogate District Hospital, also played on the Fab Four's 1968 number one Hey Jude.

A funeral was held at St Robert's Church, Harrogate, on December 22.

Known to his friends as Willie, Mr Lang was born in Hollin Well, Norland, in 1919. When his father died he moved to Beechwood, Sowerby Bridge, to live with his aunt, Annie Hardy, aged 11.

His first instrument was a rubber hose from his mother's wash tub. Once he received a proper instrument, he played for the Norland Band and Bradford Band at an early age. At just 16 years old he became assistant principal cornet player at Black Dyke, Queensbury.

He worked as an apprentice builder and stonemason at Parkers Yard, Sowerby Bridge, and was so good he paid a tradesman's wage while still a boy. His handiwork can still be seen on the columns of the former Barclays Bank, Sowerby Bridge.

During the war he joined the Royal Engineers in 1941 and was a tank commander for the 1st Field Squadron Royal Engineers in the 8th Army.

He served in Italy, Austria and North Africa for five years.

He returned to the Black Dyke Band after demobilisation in 1946 where he was championed for his role as principal cornet player from 1938 to 1941, 1945 to 1950 and 1952 to 1954.

During this period the band won the National Championships of Great Britain in 1947, 1948 and 1949. He was also the 1947, 1948 and 1949 All England Solo Champion.

In 1950, Mr Lang left the Black Dyke Band to play for the West Riding Orchestra, but returned in 1952.

He later joined the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra.

In 1953 he joined the Halle Orchestra, initially on third trumpet, but his reputation soon earned him a place at the London Symphony Orchestra as principal trumpet player.

As well as working with composer John Williams on the soundtrack to the Star Wars and Superman films, Mr Lang worked on William Walton's music for The Battle of Britain and other films such as The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare.

He also worked with musician Frank Zappa and Mike Batt, of The Wombles fame.

He leaves two sons from his first marriage, Michael and Patrick, widow Anne and sons, Gerald and James, and seven grandchildren.

Geoff Whiteley, administrator at The Black Dyke Band, said Willie would be remembered as a top-class musician.

"He will be remembered by his contemporaries as either the greatest, or one of the greatest musicians of all time.

"He is definitely in the top three. He was a terrific instrumentalist and a great guy." He was a terrific instrumentalist and a great guy.”

suzanne.rutter@halifaxcourier.co.uk