Best known as the founder of Curved Air, Francis Monkman is unusual even among the ranks of progressive rock's musicians for his level of musical training. As a student at the Westminster School in the '60s, he studied organ and harpsichord and he nursed the ambition to conduct a Mozart opera. And later in the decade, as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, he won the Raymond Russel Prize for his virtuosity on the harpsichord, but he also took up playing the electric guitar. During this period, he also became a session musician. In 1970, Monkman was the catalyst in the formation of Curved Air out of an earlier group called Sisyphus. Their three albums carved out a permanent place for the group in the annals of progressive rock, but Monkman also worked as a session musician on records by the Shadows, David Essex, Kate Bush, Steve Harley, and Paul Nicholas, among many others. Monkman never took himself too far from serious classical music, continuing to give performances at Royal Albert Hall and the Purcell Room. In the mid-'70s, Monkman was introduced to classical guitarist John Williams and played on his album, Travelling. The two later formed the group Sky with Herbie Flowers, Kevin Peek, and Tristan Fry. He also performed live with Brian Eno (which appeared on the album Dali's Car) and played on albums by acts including Renaissance, Al Stewart, the Alan Parsons Project, and Kate Bush, and moved into soundtrack composition during the '80s, most notably writing the music for #The Long Good Friday. He also worked with the other John Williams (the soundtrack composer) on #The Empire Strikes Back's score. Monkman has also occasionally mixed his classical and rock backgrounds more closely on albums such as Symphonic Rock: British Invasion, Vol. 1. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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