Published January 13, 2015
Alexander "Sandy" Courage, an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated arranger, orchestrator and composer who created the otherworldly theme for the classic "Star Trek" TV show, has died. He was 88.
Courage died May 15 at the Sunrise assisted-living facility in Pacific Palisades, his stepdaughter Renata Pompelli of Los Angeles, said Thursday. He had been in poor health for three years.
Over a decades-long career, Courage collaborated on dozens of movies and orchestrated some of the greatest musicals of the 1950s and 1960s, including "My Fair Lady," "Hello, Dolly!" "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Gigi," "Porgy and Bess" and "Fiddler on the Roof."
But his most famous work is undoubtedly the "Star Trek" theme, which he composed, arranged and conducted in a week in 1965.
"I have to confess to the world that I am not a science fiction fan," Courage said in an interview for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Archive of American Television in 2000. "Never have been. I think it's just marvelous malarkey. ... So you write some, you hope, marvelous malarkey music that goes with it."
Courage said the tune, with its ringing fanfare, eerie soprano part and swooping orchestration, was inspired by an arrangement of the song "Beyond the Blue Horizon" he heard as a youngster.
"Little did I know when I wrote that first A-flat for the flute that it was going to go down in history, somehow," Courage said. "It's a very strange feeling."
Courage said he also mouthed the "whooshing" sound heard as the starship Enterprise zooms through the opening credits of the TV show.
"Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry later wrote lyrics to the tune, which were never sung on the show but entitled him to half the royalties, Courage said.
Among the many other projects Courage worked on was the 1987 TV special "Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas," for which he won an Emmy for musical direction.
He and Lionel Newman shared Academy Award nominations for their adapted scores for 1964's "The Pleasure Seekers" and 1967's "Doctor Dolittle."
A friend and colleague of movie composers John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, he also provided the orchestration for such movies as "The Poseidon Adventure," "Jurassic Park," "Basic Instinct" and "The Mummy" and supplied arrangements for the Boston Pops while Williams was conductor in the 1980s and early 1990s.
For "Star Trek" he composed music for only a few episodes, in addition to the theme and the music for the pilot. But that theme was reprised in the TV sequel "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and in the "Star Trek" movies.
Courage was born Dec. 10, 1919, in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey. After graduation from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., in 1941, Courage enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
After the war, he became a composer for CBS radio shows and then became an orchestrator and arranger at MGM.
Beginning in the 1960s he composed music for TV shows, including "The Waltons," "Lost in Space" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," although the only themes he created were for "Star Trek" and "Judd For the Defense."