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Composer, author, lecturer, pianist and organist, Ernest Markham Lee was born in Cambridge where he was educated at the Perse School and Emmanuel College (he was taught by Charles Wood) on 8 June 1874 and died in Eastbourne on 13 November 1956. In between he was involved in much useful activity as Professor of Organ at the Guildhall School of Music, Extension Lecturer to Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities, as Examiner to the Associated Board and the Royal Schools of Music in which capacity he visited Canada, New Zealand, India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malta and Jamaica, as festival adjudicator and as Organist at All Saints Woodford Green (he directed the Woodford Green chamber concerts). He was married; his son was killed in Italy in 1914-18 - there were two daughters.

His compositions were varied, but there is, as with all the people discussed in this series, an emphasis on work for musical amateurs and young musical amateurs in particular. For example there was for piano the suite Dreams and Delights, many studies and a host of easy short pieces; for piano duet he published two sequences, of six pieces each, on Alice in Wonderland; the four pieces of The Fiddle and I were for young violinists. More ambitious piano publications included the preludes Hesperus and Serapis and the Modern Suite. He contributed a number of cantatas and partsongs, both original and arranged from folk tunes, suitable for festivals: Naughty Mary (SATB), Tender Sleep Enfold Thee (women's voices unaccompanied or SATB), The Dream Seller for upper voices, a delightful piece I have heard several times recently in live performance, and Seamates Bold and Smugglers ("A sea craft and a free craft"), both for four part male voice choirs. His solo songs included Rainbow Time, popular in the early years of the present century. There were a number of publications reminding us that he was a church organist and choir master: anthems for mixed and women's voices and a number of organ pieces, an Overture Alla Marcia and a Romance in A (both from 1904) and Capricietto and Scherzo in A, both published in 1925.

He composed a light opera Paris in Spring, which had no more than modest success, and a quantity of orchestral music. His Moorland and Torland, West Country Suite and, transcribed for strings from piano originals Rivers of Devon (Tamar, Dart, Torridge, Lyn) suggest a love of Devon. The latter suite was premiered in Torquay by the Municipal Orchestra on 6 March 1934; it and also the suites Round The North Sea (No 3 In The Fjords maybe pays tribute to Grieg about whom he wrote a book) and Light Heart were for strings only and would be suitable for amateur orchestras. The intermezzo Florestina enjoyed a modest popularity.

Lee's published books are, more than those by Rowley and Thiman, concerned with musical history and biography, though the list included The Music Lover's Ear Tests, On Listening to Music (1918), A Course in Music and Musical Theory and Knowledge (1923) to set against biographies of Tchaikovsky (1904) and Edvard Grieg (1908, the year after he died) and The Story of Opera (1909), Brahms: The Man and his Music (1915), The Story of the Symphony (1916) and Brahms Orchestral Works (1931).

© Philip L Scowcroft

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