The New Grove (Grove 6) can be very frustrating when you have to look up British composers. How often do you go to Grove only to discover that there is no entry for the composer you want to look up? The Grove due for publication in 1999 should be an improvement but its coverage will still be very limited when it comes to researching the many obscure, but interesting and in some cases extremely commanding, composers from the British Isles.

The British Music Society (BMS) in collaboration with Gerald Leach (who wrote and compiled the dictionary) have since the BMS was establish in 1978 published two editions of BRITISH COMPOSER PROFILES - A biographical dictionary of past British composers 1800-1989.

It deals only with those composers no longer living as at the last publication date in 1989.

The current edition (the second) is a 127 page paperback. This is sturdily and attractively bound. It was published to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the British Music Society. The book contains brief profiles of 490 British composers followed by a chronological listing showing British composers' years of birth from 1762-1950, and is a quick and handy reference guide.

It is available on sale to both member and non-members.

A cheque for 6.25 or 14$ dollars US (both are inclusive of postage and packing) should be sent to:-

The cheque should be made payable to 'British Music Society'.
7 Tudor Gardens

If you would like to join the BMS, membership of the Society costs 14 pounds sterling at normal rate and with special discounts on BMS products the Patron rate is a minimum of 19 pounds sterling. Applicants wishing to join from outside the U.K. should write to Mr Trowell with details and he will quote the appropriate rate.

Here are a number of extracts from Gerlad Leach's BMS 'British Composer Profiles' to give you som eidea of the style and range of coverage.

BRENT-SMITH, Alexander (1889-1950)

This educationalist, author and composer was born at Brookthorpe in Gloucestershire and went to King s School, Worcester. For twenty-one years he was director of music at Lancing College in Sussex and his music was represented on several occasions at the Three Choirs Festivals. His compositions include two symphonies and a symphonic study, four operas: The Gentle Tyrant, The Captain s Parrot, The Age of Chivalry and Catherine Morland (the last after Jane Austen s Northanger Abbey), large scale choral works, five concertos, chamber and instrumental music. Brent-Smith wrote Studies of the Great Composers and various studies of Schubert s music.

COOPER, Walter Thomas (1895-1935)

Gaze Cooper was born at Long Eaton in Derbyshire and studied with Frederick Moore and Benjamin Dale. At the RAM he was a pupil of Eaglefield-Hull and Frederick Dawson. He founded and conducted for twenty-six years the orchestra which eventually became the Nottingham S.O. From 1925 he taught at the Midland Conservatory of Music. Gaze Cooper composed eight symphonies, four piano concertos, concertos for violin, oboe, horn, double bass, bassoon and viola, two ballets, overtures and other orchestral works, an opera, chamber music and songs. He was a keen collector of Chinese, Greek and Egyptian works of art.

DRING, Madeleine (1923-1977)

A violinist, pianist and singer as well as a composer, Madeleine Dring was born at Hornsey. At the age of nine she won a violin scholarship at the junior department of the RCM, where she later studied with Herbert Howells and, occasionally, with Vaughan Williams. While at the RCM her talents were recognised and she was soon writing music for children s plays. Her later works included an opera (Cupboard Love), the orchestral Dansa Gaya, incidental music for radio, television and West End revues, several trios and other chamber works, and instrumental music, especially for piano (including a Fantasy Sonata in B flat) and for oboe (her husband was the oboist, Roger Lord). Madeleine Dring s music never displayed influences of contemporary developments, but it was distinctive, entertaining and suffused with vivacity and wit, as may best be seen in the Three Fantastic Variations on Lilliburlero for two pianos (1948).

FOSTER, Myles Birket (1851-1922)

Son of the famous water colourist of the same name, Myles Birket Foster was born in London, where he spent most of his life. He started a career in a stockbroker s office but soon became a music pupil of Hamilton Clarke, later studying at the RAM with Sullivan, Prout and Westlake. Primarily an organist and choirmaster (in Marylebone and at the Foundling Hospital Chapel), among other appointments, he composed symphonies, overtures, children s cantatas, a string quartet, trios and church music.

HEATH, John Rippiner (1887-1950)

A medical practitioner by profession and a fine violinist, John Heath was born in Birmingham. He spent most of his life in Barmouth and conducted the Barmouth Choral Union. While at Cambridge he led many string quartets for the University Musical Club. Dr Heath was self-taught as a composer but wrote prolifically, with originality and no small sense of humour. Most of his works were for chamber groups, a great deal for violin and piano (Three Macedonian Sketches were once very popular) and for the string quartet medium. He also composed a cello concerto, triple concerto and other orchestral pieces, a choreographic drama (In the Valley of White Poppies) and a symbolic drama for actors, dancers, chorus, string quartet and wind quintet; he wrote over one-hundred songs and many piano pieces.

IVIMEY, John William (1868-1961)

John Ivimey was born at Stratford in Essex. He was educated at Herne Bay College and the Guildhall School of Music, gaining a doctorate from Oxford. He was Director of Music at Chelsea Polytechnic, Cheltenham and Marlborough Colleges, and organist of several churches including St Peter s, Norbiton, St Paul s, Onslow Square, and All Souls , Langham Place. His final appointment was at Llandaff Cathedral. Ivimey wrote a book, Boys and Music , and edited the Marlborough hymn and song books as well as contributing articles to several magazines. He composed one grand opera, Rose of Lancaster, about twenty comic operas, cantatas, a symphony, trios, organ music and songs.

LYDIATE, Frederick (1906-1978)

Frederick Lydiate was born at Salford and studied music with Dr F.H. Wood, Claude Biggs and Dora Gilson. After the war, during which he was an artist manager with ENSA, he spent his time teaching in schools in Lincolnshire, London and, since 1957, Coventry. He also played the piano as accompanist. He composed mainly chamber music - two string quartets, various quintets, etc. - sonatas for violin and for piano, other instrumental works and several song cycles. Lydiate s aim was to introduce modern compositional techniques gently into his works so as not to "bewilder" the public ear. The critic Alan Blyth wrote of him in the Daily Telegraph, "Lydiate certainly seems to have had a musical mind of his own and his neglect is unwarranted."

WILLIAMS, John Gerrard (1888-1947)

Gerrard Williams, born in London, was largely self-taught as a composer, having practised architecture until 1920. He did, however, receive some guidance from Walthew. The first recital of his works was given in 1922 at the Aeolian Hall in London. His compositions include operas (e.g. Kate, the Cabin Boy), operettas (The Story of the Willow Pattern Plate was for children), orchestral and choral works, string quartets and other chamber music, songs and piano pieces.

SWAIN, Freda (1902-1985)

Born at Portsmouth, Freda Swain studied with Dora Matthay and at the RCM with Stanford and Arthur Alexander, whom she married in 1921. In 1924 she joined the staff of the RCM and in 1926 founded the British Music Movement to promote the works of young composers and artists. Just before the war she toured with her husband in South Africa and Australia, giving recitals, broadcasting and lecturing. She composed a one-act opera (Second Chance; another opera, The Shadowy Waters, remained unfinished), a piano concerto, a concertino for piano and strings and other orchestral pieces, two string quartets and many other chamber works, songs and song cycles, choral and church music, a Suite for Six Trumpets, and a great variety of instrumental pieces, suffused with a rich Romanticism and expertly crafted.

Rob Barnett
Editor, British Music Society, Newsletter
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