TIMOTHY MOORE - 1922 -2003
Timothy Moore, who died on 1 February 2003, was an exceptionally talented
composer, who was Director of Music at Dartington Hall School for many
The second son of the philosopher G. E. Moore, he was born in Cambridge
in 1922. At the age of eight he was sent to the Dragon School, Oxford,
recalling many years later its harsh regime; but his unhappiness there
was transformed when he later went to Dartington Hall School in Devon,
one of a small number of pioneering, co-educational schools which gave
children considerable freedom to develop at their own pace. Here his
musical gifts began to blossom. He started to compose, and discovered
jazz, which was to become a lifelong interest and had a profound influence
on his compositional style.
He won a scholarship to read moral sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge,
but being still too young went for a year to Edinburgh University, studying
under Donald Tovey. At Cambridge, interrupted by the war during which
he was a conscientious objector, he read both philosophy and music,
gaining a double First.
This was followed by a year as a composition scholar at the Royal College
of Music under Herbert Howells and Edmund Rubbra, where he won a number
of prizes. He also worked as a jazz pianist, including a stint in Humphrey
After leaving the RCM he studied privately with Michael Tippett who
was then Director of Music at Morley College, and this led to his doing
some evening-class teaching there. His compositions began to be published,
among them three Two-part Inventions for piano and a Suite in G for
In 1950 Moore returned to Dartington Hall School to become its Director
of Music, a. post he was to hold for the next 32 years. Here he became
a devoted and inspirational teacher, whether conducting the school choir
(for which his numerous arrangements of Negro-spirituals were something
of a speciality), leading the jazz band or imparting the intricacies
of 16th century counterpoint. His interest in jazz, well ahead of its
belated recognition in education generally, rubbed off on generations
of his pupils, some of whom went on to become established players themselves.
At Dartington he wrote much music for children, including several musicals
in collaboration with David Gribble with whom he also wrote a cantata
'The Scrapyard'. He gave many two-piano recitals with Roy Truby, which
included broadcasts on BBC radio.
His renewed friendship with his Russian-born school-friend Diana Miller,
who became the director of the first Anglo-Soviet joint company, led
to his organising visits to this country by a Composers' Union delegation,
with pupils from the Gnessin Music School (among them the young Yevgeny
Kissin), which resulted in relations between their Union and our Composers'
Guild being re-established after an interval of some thirty years. This
in turn led to many performances and broadcasts of his music in the
then Soviet Union and widespread recognition in that country.
His style of composition was individual and difficult to pigeon-hole,
owing something to Hindemith, the English madrigalists and Bach as well
as to jazz. Although he loved the freedom and elasticity which jazz
offered he was also a meticulous composer with a deep interest in counterpoint.
Examples of ingenious devices abound in his works although they are
always made to seem entirely natural. His compositions cover a wide
range - choral, vocal, orchestral and instrumental, some of the latter
including some unusual combinations such as vibraphone, oboe, horn and
He was a much-loved if eccentric personality, retiring, unworldly and
hopelessly at sea in many practical matters. A confirmed bachelor nothing
could shake him from his normal routine, to the frequent exasperation
of his friends; 'I can't possibly see you at 5.30, I'm having my bath'
an oft- quoted remark. His bushy beard reminded one of Brahms or a Russian
Orthodox priest and his style of dress could at times be startling.
His work-room was littered with papers, and he carried economy to extremes
by covering every inch of paper with minute hieroglyphics. In his recent
letter-writing he adopted a system of simplified spelling, to the amusement
(or annoyance!) of his recipients. He was something of a gourmet, with
a love of good wine and cigars, and he could be very good company, kind
and generous and blessed with a child-like innocence and sense of fun.
He continued to compose, and to perform as jazz pianist, right to the
end of his life, and in February last year a concert of his music to
celebrate his eightieth birthday was given in Cambridge. Although he
won some success as a composer; with a number of publications and broadcasts,
the fact remains that he was probably better known in Russia than in
Britain, and in his latter years he worked hard to try to achieve wider
recognition in this country, something which he never quite succeeded
in but richly deserved.
© Nicholas Marshall - 2003