Cecil Armstrong Gibbs
Born: Great Baddow in Essex 10th
Died: Chelmsford 12th May 1960
I spoke to the composer Richard Stoker about
his early meeting with Armstrong Gibbs over 50 years ago. He also
gives his thoughts on Gibbs and his music, the plight of British
composers in the 20th century, and some oral history on the social
and musical scene in Pontefract in the late 1940s.
Richard Stoker (right) as a school
boy in Castleford
Richard Stoker, your first and only meeting with
Cecil Armstrong Gibbs was in the West Riding market town of Pontefract.
You were about 9 years old and a budding musician.
As far as I remember, and it is about 55 years
ago now, Armstrong Gibbs was the Adjudicator at the Pontefract
Competitive Music Festival, circa 1948, and I may also have been
examined by him at an earlier or later date at Pontefract for
an Associated Board grade examination. He seems to have been a
familiar figure when he was visiting the North as an adjudicator,
or so I was told at the time and frequently since. The
adjudication took place at either the old Assembly Rooms or as
part of the music festival in the ancient Town Hall. On the day
of the competition I remember I was dressed in the usual shorts
and pink or blue gingham shirt, and sandals.
I arrived with my father and mother at our
favourite restaurant and tearooms called Wordsworths. It always
smelt of Brown Windsor soup that I adored to eat and to smell.
It was a couple of minutes after nine in the morning -- the church
clock had just struck. We ordered coffee and biscuits from the
waitress, smartly dressed with a spotless white napkin over her
arm, when a distinguished older man sat down at the next table.
He looked very shy but at the same time kind and extremely confident;
he stooped a lot, what they then called a professorial stoop.
After placing his leather briefcase at his feet he nodded to us,
but said nothing. I sipped my white coffee thinking how much better
it was than the wartime sweet and gravy-like 'Camp' we all drank
at home in those days. Our neighbour ordered a large cooked breakfast:
it looked like a mixed grill, plus toast and coffee. I think he
may have started with a large half of grapefruit. When the girl
returned with the piping hot meal our neighbour was already reading
The Times, with adverts all over the front page. I thought
he would be up for the races as he was dressed in a thick check
green tweed suit, with a cream-coloured handkerchief floating
out of his top pocket; both tie and hanky were pure silk, I noticed.
He would take out the handkerchief and wipe his nose, then put
it back. I was very nervous about the coming ordeal at the festival.
I remember my father saying the usual thing that you can only
do your best and he expected nothing more -- or so he said. Our
neighbour lingered over his breakfast and newspaper as if on holiday
and with all the time in the world. He kept leaning back in his
wooden Windsor armchair to turn the huge pages of his newspaper,
snorting and sniffing a bit. My father hadn't even noticed him,
but like me my mother had. She asked my father who he thought
the stranger might be. My father answered her: 'How should I know,
someone up from the South ... London no doubt.' Next time the
waitress appeared to clear our cups, saucers and plates my mother
whispered to her: 'Who's that man?' nodding at the next table.
'Oh, he's the Music Festival adjudicator. He always stays here.'
(There were bedrooms for hire above, which always seemed intriguing
to me.) Now I felt even more nervous than before. 'He'll be adjudicating
your class, Richard,' my mother said. As we left my father said
he had to see his solicitor, something that he always did when
in Pontefract, two miles from our home in Glasshoughton. He'd
meet us for lunch again at Wordsworths, and he shouted 'Good Luck'
to me. My mother took me across the road; we turned right at the
ancient Butter Cross where I loved to play, and through the empty
open Market Square (I think it was a Friday), and then left again
towards the Town Hall. I remember her saying that he looked a
nice, very friendly man and told me not to worry.
Now to most people Pontefract conjures up images
of a rather famous liquorice confection. However, I have looked
at the local website and see that there is quite a lot going for
this town, including a rather impressive castle.
You mean Betjeman's witty 'In The Liquorice
Fields at Pontefract My Love and I Did Lie'. Yes, there
were liquorice sticks, liquorice All Sorts, etc. all manufactured
there, I remember eating lots of it, including pieces like dark-shag
pipe tobacco -- I think some old men and women smoked this variety
too. I couldn't eat any of it now, perhaps one piece the size
of a two pence piece for nostalgia only. There was also the local
rhubarb (between Pontefract and Doncaster is the very best soil
for rhubarb). Both were famous laxatives. Local people used to
'force' the rhubarb in the dark under their beds, then replanted
it. Pontefract Castle, which was built in Norman times, has been
a ruin since the Civil War. It remained in Tudor hands all through
the Wars of the Roses, even though all the Yorkists lived around.
It is built on a solid rock and until the Cromwell period was
impregnable. I used to play there from the age of about two; later
I discovered and played in the very damp dungeons where Richard
II was murdered (starved to death or poisoned). Later I saw one
or two productions of Shakespeare's Richard II on the grass
tennis courts: one was given by the local King's School, another
was given by a cast drawn from the Quaker school at nearby Ackworth,
where the Victorian Liberal MP John Bright had studied, and
for both productions the dungeons were used as the offstage area
and dressing rooms. Later I played tennis on the grass tennis
courts as a member of the Pontefract Tennis Club: I remember how
slowly the ball moved on grass. I was named after Richard the
Lionheart, but the other two Richards have always fascinated me,
especially the Plantagenet period itself. The Tudors certainly
valued 'their' castle. When not playing or watching the tennis
I would wander off down a path where I came to two unmarked tomb-like
lead coffins. I liked to jump about on them and jump off them.
Later I found they contained the remains of two Plantagenets executed
at the castle: Lord Grey, the uncle of the remarkable Elizabeth
Wyedville (or Woodville), grandmother to King Henry VIII, and
her brother Anthony, the 2nd Lord Rivers. I have since heard that
Rivers was the first person to have a book printed in Britain
by Caxton. (Earlier, after the battle of Wakefield, Henry VI's
widowed Queen, Margaret of Anjou, ordered many Yorkist nobles
to be beheaded at the castle.) At the small castle museum the
curator would allow me to dress up in the very heavy armour said
to have belonged to one of these men or even to Richard II. So
Pontefract and the ruined Castle are both rich in history. In
fact, on a visit to Hampton Court the first painting I saw was
an oil on wood of Pontefract Castle, dated circa 1500. It gave
me a shock to see it there, but the castle being always in Tudor
hands explains the connection.
Could you give me a flavour of this town in the
immediate post-war period? I think this could be of interest to
record for its own sake.
Pontefract is now famous as the extremely cold
place where the WAAFs were recruited, at the old barracks, where
they all slept or tried to sleep, on camp beds in the drill hall.
To girls from the south it seemed next to nowhere, so the early
prisoners at the castle would have found it even worse. The Second
World War hardly changed Pontefract: I mentioned the ancient Butter
Cross on the open market square. I believe Charlotte Bronte's
husband, after her death, sold some furniture from Haworth Parsonage
at the open market, for we had a chair and a small footstool from
there. My father and uncle were photographed in the chair around
1905 and I use the footstool to rest my feet when working on my
music. Pontefract also has the distinction of being the first
place where the ballot box was used for elections (in the 1870s).
Ropergate is a lovely street with the better shops and a cinema
called the Crescent. When I was about eleven a new, modern chapel
was built, designed by a Mr Poulson who lived locally. The only
drawback was that my uncle had to make do with a grand piano instead
of a pipe organ, but there was a small pedal organ in the crypt
where after the main service I would accompany the communion.
At the Assembly Rooms there is a huge bas-relief in sculptured
plaster of The Death of Nelson, based on the painting by
Daniel Maclise. Some classes at the music festival were held here
or at the town hall, so there was frequent movement about. A favourite
place was the Valley Gardens behind the Infirmary; these gardens
and the hospital were built over a recently discovered Roman historical
site. The Parish Church had as organist Noel Gaye, composer of
'The Lambeth Walk' -- the concert agency is named after him. My
father bought a C. Bechstein piano for me from a surgeon who worked
at the Infirmary who had previously bought it from Noel Gaye.
Pontefract, sheltered as it is under the great rock of the ruined
castle, was such an historical haven of rest near so much industry,
the close proximity of the mines was hardy noticed, nor the pipe-smoking
miners themselves who seemed to avoid the town; this confused
me as a boy of about 10 or so. Pontefract seemed hardly affected
by the war itself, it was even quite a pleasure for me to use
my ration book there, it seemed almost a cathedral town, and making
ends meet had almost become a pleasure if you could spend a day
in such a lovely old town as Pontefract.
I know that you were interested in cricket as
well as music: did you know that Gibbs played the game until he
became too infirm? He then turned to bowls.
That really does sound familiar from the distant
past. He was a countryman, and cricket and bowls are both played
in the heart of the country, often near a country pub. It's very
believable really. Do any titles of his pieces reflect these interests?
It's surprising how many 20th century composers have played squash
and tennis. Squash is often popular because you can be back at
your desk in under an hour and it's useful to have the shower!
It is funny you mentioned cricket because I often drew cricketing
symbols on my piano scores to remind me of things to do: bails,
bats, balls, pads, stumps etc. Armstrong Gibbs, looking over my
shoulder, asked why these were there and he must have been interested
in the cricketing symbols, being a cricketer himself. At this
time I became a member of various societies at Pontefract: The
chess club, the tennis club -- hard courts, but as I said I preferred
to play in the Castle grounds, on grass, weather permitting. I
also played bowls occasionally. The Photographic Society, where
the members still used old box cameras and whose average age was
about sixty-five, were very snooty, resenting a young boy in their
midst; they seemed to be all men too, but I persevered there for
about a year. One Sunday my father announced: 'Come on, we're
going out to somewhere special', and it turned out to be two rounds
of golf (18 holes) at the famous Pontefract golf course near the
racecourse. My father, who was a member, wore his plus-fours.
But it was my membership as a Yorkshire Colt of Castleford Cricket
Club that gave me the most pleasure, for one summer evening I
had the good fortune to bowl against the young Brian Close, recently
back from his first tour of Australia for England, during which
our senior players, Yorkshire ones too, had failed to encourage
Close, who was hardly out of his teens. What an experience that
was for me!
As I said earlier, CAG was adjudicating a music
festival - this implies that there was a vigorous local musical
interest. Can you tell me something of this?
The musical interest was marginal, coming as
it did from the churches and chapels, the private teachers and
some schools. But the real local musical interest came from the
collieries - brass bands, even bell ringing, the local Gilbert
and Sullivan Society in nearby Castleford, called The Old Legioleans
after the Roman name for the town. It was here that I sang bass
or tenor in the chorus, and sometimes conducted the rehearsals
in the local Grammar School. I remember our productions of Patience
and Haddon Hall. I spent the breaks looking at Henry
Moore's first carving in wood of the World War One memorial plaque
on his grammar school's wall. The bridge at Castleford had been
the only way across the River Aire to the North and Scotland at
one time, the old Roman Road that came from Finchley Road, up
Watling Street, through St Albans, Knottingley through Castleford
then on up to Edinburgh. Castleford and Pontefract are exactly
midway between the two great cities, London and Edinburgh. So
the music scene wasn't all centred at the Town Hall and Assembly
Rooms but in the parks, schools, night schools, choir stalls etc.
There's even a Folk and Dance society now, with Morris dancing
performed in the open air in the Castle grounds. As far as the
music was concerned the standards varied greatly. But it is a
fact that the Examiners were most impressed by the industrial
places in Britain, the entrants worked harder and took the whole
thing more seriously. Often the best results and standards come
from the industrial places, there is perhaps a higher concentration
on the artistic side of life as a compensatory factor to the often
drab environment. So Armstrong Gibbs could enjoy both sides of
his life and it was perhaps a satisfaction to him and an inspiration
for his creative work.
What were you doing at the Festival? I assume
that you had been entered for the piano section.
Yes, both the solo and the duet classes.
Which pieces did you play?
Mostly set pieces by Adam Carse etc, later
Mozart and Beethoven were popular. I seem to remember an Armstrong
Gibbs piece was set more than once, but not when he was adjudicating.
I remember a Brahms Hungarian March was popular in the Duet sections,
also a Liszt Hungarian Dance. I played the Minute Waltz of Chopin,
getting it fast enough to just fill the minute.
Who was your teacher at that time? What works
did you have to study? And how did piano study differ in the 1950s
to the present day?
My father's cousin, who I always called Uncle
Harry, George Henry Howdle, who had gained an LRAM from the Royal
Academy and a Fellowship from the Trinity College in London. At
Pontefract he was the local music teacher. He taught me the piano
and general musicianship, also looking at my early efforts in
composition. He couldn't see any further than Debussy, who seemed
avant-garde to him. Earlier he had accompanied such singers as
Elsie Suddeby, Kathleen Ferrier and Isobel Bailey. Besides the
piano he taught singing, the organ and trained the Chapel choir,
which I helped by conducting for him while he accompanied them
on the grand piano or church organ. Harry had come across Armstrong
Gibbs as examiner and adjudicator and once invited him over to
the church to conduct our chapel choir in one of his own part
songs. That was greatly encouraging. Also Harry had seen him often
throughout the week at the Festival when he himself had been asked
to accompany the singers in the vocal classes. I remember Armstrong
Gibbs examining pianists and singers at my uncle's house opposite
the park and having lunch with him and my aunt. When my uncle
died, I was invited to take over his many pupils: they were just
taking their Associated Board exams. When the Examiner came: Watson
Forbes, from London's RAM, this time, he took one look at the
Certificates on the music room wall. 'Oh', he said to my aunt
Mary, 'This must be your late husband's Diploma', pointing to
the LRAM one, then spotting the other from Trinity, he said: 'and
this must be yours, my dear'. 'No,' she said, 'they're
both his'. I was aged 13 at the time. When I met Watson ten years
later I didn't mention it. By then I had begun teaching at the
RAM in almost the same way, invited to take over from the Russian-born
composer Manuel Frankel who had died suddenly: his pupils were
also about to take their yearly exams. Eerie, isn't it?
What pieces did you play at the Festival - I think
I recall you mentioning the Sonata No. 5 by Beethoven.
Yes, that work was at a later date in the Open
Class, all ages. I can't remember the exact pieces, I know I played
a solo, then in the afternoon a piano duet. I believe both were
recorded by a 78rpm-recording machine hired from Manchester: I
still have a copy of the 10-inch disc.
How well did you do? Did you win any awards or
commendations this time?
I seem to remember coming third in the morning
and second in the afternoon. Someone said 'He'll be a composer,
they often come second or third in the performing classes'.
Did CAG play the piano at the Festival? If so,
can you recall anything about his playing?
Yes, he demonstrated parts of pieces to each
of us and in the open class performed a movement of a Sonata to
an elderly man who looked bored and uncomfortable, as if he thought
he knew best. On the other hand Armstrong Gibbs' playing was extremely
musical, with great feeling. He sat at the grand piano very relaxed,
with straight back and slightly sideways. I noticed ten years
later that this was how the song composer Michael Head (who had
become my friend by then) and was eleven years younger than Gibbs,
would sit when playing, often providing his own silk cushion for
comfort. Both of them frequently looked round at the audience
and at the performers.
How did CAG strike you - was he a severe-looking
gentleman - bearing in mind he was nearly sixty at the time?
Not severe at all: he was relaxed, kindly and
smiling. You could tell how experienced he was as an examiner
and adjudicator. He used terms such as 'my boy' quite often. He
was never fussy but in complete control. His humour came from
the musical situation, and was never forced or artificial. He
was not in any way a showman like later adjudicators were. Armstrong
Gibbs knew why he was there, taking the musical and educational
side very seriously indeed. He was a professional to his fingertips.
The viola player Bernard Shore reminded me of him in many ways,
easy to talk to, never brusque, ready to advise the younger person
when asked. Before we leave the subject of the Festival, it's
interesting to note that this year, 2003, is the Pontefract and
District Music Festival's centenary year.
Gibbs' biographer Angela Aries has said that he
was a countryman at heart and did not really take to the pizzazz
of city life. All the paraphernalia of the rural life appealed
to him. Is this how he struck you?
That's absolutely true: he looked out of place
examining. That's why I thought he was up for the races or golf
or even hunting. He was like a country squire. When anyone called
me squire later on, such as a bank manager, I always thought of
Did CAG speak to you at this time or make any
comments on your musicianship?
Yes, he was very encouraging. I remember if
it was a young candidate playing, he would sometimes leave the
high central podium and come over, climb the stage and when you
neared the end he would be ready to say something encouraging
or demonstrate something on the keyboard. (It seemed to me he
may have preferred the teacher-pupil relationship best, he was
after all a professor at the Royal College). This seemed a new
departure from the usual approach. He commended the way a phrase
had been played; his criticism was totally without sarcasm, and
never severe. One could tell he was an inspired teacher.
Can you recall how he spoke to the other candidates?
He had a different approach to each candidate,
according to age and ability. He seemed to like the younger ones
best. In the open classes he spoke to the older candidates more
critically, avoiding any argument very cleverly. He would go up
on stage to accompany singers and instrumentalists if the accompanist
was late or away. He spent little time writing reports and was
on stage very quickly. I remember he announced with mark sheets
flapping in his hand rather formally, 'I will now make my assessments
of the candidates'. He spoke slowly and clearly without a regional
accent, very much like Sir David Willcocks' diction. There was
not a trace of excitement in his voice, just matter-of-factness
and professionalism. The Yorkshire audience loves this. No histrionics
or razzmatazz here.
After the war he reformed the Danbury Choral Society
and renewed his associations with the Festivals Movements. Around
the time he visited Pontefract he was heavily involved in preparation
of music for the Mother's Union Worldwide Conference of 1948 and
planning his input to the Festival of Britain celebrations. Do
you remember any of this being mentioned?
I am certain he referred to the Festival of
Britain: it was the first I had heard of it and it was quite exciting,
something to look out for and perhaps visit. The Mother's Unions
were especially strong then, I remember my mother and aunt
going to these events and even one my mother went to, to hear"
Odette" speak. My mother was quite excited about that meeting
and talked of it for weeks. I think we read about the Danbury
Choral Society in the Daily Mail, here we also read about
the conference. He kept a good rapport with the audience, not
so much by telling stories but by explaining the music. I seem
to remember him encouraging applause after a good performance.
Why do you think he was invited to Pontefract?
It was the most important Festival after the
Mrs Sunderland Festival at Huddersfield which I later adjudicated.
So he would visit Pontefract regularly, both as an adjudicator
and as an examiner. The musicologist Professor Denis Stevens CBE
recently told me that Gibbs visited his own school - The Royal
Grammar School, High Wycombe, Bucks in 1938. Armstrong Gibbs came
to examine the boys in music; he was remembered as a cheerful,
outgoing, friendly man who was extremely musical and an inspiration
to them all. So Denis Stevens and I have this fact in common;
Armstrong Gibbs encouraged us both in our formative years, although
there is sixteen years' difference in our ages. Armstrong
Gibbs was very popular at Pontefract because of his experience
and age, also the fact that he was a composer made it something
special. The hard-headed Yorkshire men and women always wanted
the best, they still do now, but finances come into it more, and
they want the TV celebrity more than the academic expert, often
someone they themselves can relate to. It was quality first, then
personality, and finally, as the young and gifted were involved,
Until recently, my only knowledge of Armstrong
Gibbs' music was of a few of his solo songs and a couple of organ
Actually Gibbs was very much a 'people's' composer,
producing much 'utility music' for amateurs. This fits in well
with his dedication to the Festival movement, doesn't it?
I knew the songs and piano works, also some
choral works. Like myself he seemed to prefer a cappella writing,
often SATB too. Works that I remember are: 'While the Shepherds
Were Watching', a carol with words by Benedict Ellis, SATB (1955),
'Now Israel May Say, and That Truly', SATB (c1937), 'The Gift',
a choral mime, for narrator, women's chorus, miming troupe, strings
and piano, words by Benedict Ellis, and the beautiful 'Anthem
for Easter - Most Glorious Lord of Lyfe', words by Edmund Spenser
(c1932). Songs include: 'The Ballad of Semmerwater' (Curwen-Elkin),
'Gipsies' (OUP), 'Five Eyes', 'A Song of Shadows', 'The Fields
are Full' (all three Boosey & Hawkes), 'Lyonesse' (Elkin),
'The Witch', 'The Splendour Falls', 'Fulfilment', 'The Oxen',
'Titania', 'Tom o'Bedlam', 'The Wanderer', 'Hypochondriacus',
'Philomel', 'The Lamb and the Dove' (all Thames/Elkin). There
is incidental music to The Oresteia trilogy of Aeschylus
composed for Cambridge in 1921, and music for Maeterlinck's The
BetrothaI (see the humorous article 'Alarms and excursions',
by Armstrong Gibbs on this work's gestation, which appeared in
Composer magazine No 16, July 1965, reprinted from the
Composers' Guild Bulletin No 18, March 1957). I have also
heard on Radio 1 or 2 two finely crafted and tuneful chamber music
works. In this way he resembles another highly inspired, tuneful
and undervalued composer, Gordon Jacob.
I know that CAG wrote a number of works for the
stage - both operas and incidental music. In fact, to a certain
extent this is how he made his name. He wrote the music for Crossings,
a children's play written especially for Gibbs by Walter de la
Mare. Also did you ever come across some of his comic operas -
one of them was to a libretto by A.P.Herbert, The Blue Peter,
and perhaps the harlequinade Midsummer Madness, by Clifford
Bax. In fact this last work had 115 performances before it closed.
I seem to remember some of his music being
broadcast on the enterprising Home Service - Childrens' Hour.
David Davis, himself a fine pianist, featured much inspired music,
usually as signature tune music.
He wrote a 'television' opera, Mr Cornelius,
in 1952/3 for performance on the BBC. However it was rejected.
This hurt the composer deeply and I believe he did not turn his
hand to the medium again. Did this fit in with the BBC's policy
to ignore 'conservative' composers at this time?
I am sure it was about this time, following
the Festival of Britain year, that things changed, melody was
discouraged and communication was no longer a priority at the
BBC. The competition between works is very great. What a pity
his opera wasn't broadcast on television: it would have been one
of the very first new British operas screened. I seem to remember
an Arthur Benjamin opera was the first commissioned for television.
Both composers died the same year - 1960.
Armstrong Gibbs went to the Lake District during
the war, due to his house being requisitioned for the war effort.
After the death of his son in Italy he wrote his Westmoreland
Symphony, no. 3, which to my mind is one of his finest works.
Have you come across it?
Yes, I heard it broadcast about five years
ago now. I was very impressed by its English pastoral quality
and its length and substantiality: no mean feat to write so expansively.
It reminded me in some respects of another work of a similar nature,
Alan Bush's Nottingham Symphony, but the Gibbs is more laid back.
Perhaps it's the countryman writing alongside the city man. I
think the broadcast I heard was from a CD recording on the Marco
Polo label, recorded by the National Orchestra of Ireland conducted
by Andrew Penny.
However, one of his best known works is in the
genre of so-called 'light' music. There was a time when every
orchestra at the pier end or on the promenade must have been playing
Armstrong Gibbs' Dusk. I have a piano copy of this work
and often enjoy its quiet sentimentality. However I think it is
sad that many people will know the 'tune' but not the composer.
Yes, I heard it at many resorts such as Lytham
St Anne's, Filey, Scarborough, Bridlington, St Ives and Helston.
You are right about the light music, this could have added to
the neglect of Armstrong Gibbs in recent years. He was a versatile
composer, but it's easy to get pigeon-holed in the arts, as elsewhere.
Many critics regard Gibbs' Choral Symphony Odysseus
as being his masterpiece. It was written during the war, but
had to wait until 1946 for its first performance. Did you ever
hear it, or perhaps hear tell of it?
I've certainly been told how fine it is, but
can't remember hearing it.
Why do you think that he has been largely ignored
as a composer over the years? My own view is that he was a somewhat
conservative composer who was somehow running against the spirit
of the times.
You are quite right. There is another reason
to my mind that it is not one person or one institution to blame
for the neglect of composers, but I suspect it goes back a very
long way, neither is it fashion - as the latter changes from day
to day. No, what composers have suffered over the last 150 years
is nothing to do with the above. I would trace it back to Edward
Hanslick or even further back to the Schubert period. Look how
the composers Delius and Schubert were treated after their deaths.
I could name at least two composers who died of AIDS and are neglected
now: is this due to a taboo? The history of music is populated
with composers who have suffered neglect due to reasons other
than their music, which is a shame. Their name and its associations
can also play a part. Parry and Stanford are the saddest examples
of all, together with George Dyson. Near the end of the 19th century
someone noticed a superficial resemblance to Brahms in Stanford's
music, and the die was cast. The saddest time was when our own
composers were castigated for liking to write melody. The Gibbs
generation suffered much from this: John Ireland, Frank Bridge
E.J. Moeran, Percy Turnbull, Arthur Somervell, Michael Head, Roger
Quilter, Gustav Holst, and Arnold Bax suffered most, with Gibbs,
Gordon Jacob, Herbert Howells, Arthur Benjamin, Cyril Scott, and
William Lloyd Webber, then later in the last century Gerald Finzi,
Alan and Geoffrey Bush, Arnold Cooke, Bernard Stevens, and the
film composers Bill Alwyn, Ben Frankel, Malcolm Arnold, Humphrey
Searle (a challenging composer if ever there was one) and Wilfred
Josephs, at that time all lacking broadcasts because of being
successful film composers. The overseas figures too: Paul Hindemith,
Honegger, Korngold and Zemlinsky, all suffered neglect for different
reasons. In our own time such inspired composers as William Mathias,
Tom Eastwood, David Gow, John Joubert, Alun Hoddinot, Kenneth
Leighton, Robert Sherlaw Johnson, Elizabeth Maconchy, Anthony
Milner and one of the finest, Peter Racine Fricker, spring to
mind. Composing simple and utility music was not popular from
a concert composer at that time. So Armstrong Gibbs was not a
single case, although I have noticed that he does not feature
in many reference books.
Angela Aries is presently writing
a biography of Armstrong Gibbs. I have read a couple of chapters
of this in draft form and it promises to be a fascinating story.
This coincides with the inauguration of the Armstrong Gibbs Society,
which aims to further his musical memory and provide a source
Richard Stoker website