Born: June 1, 1903; Chatham, England
Died: May 1, 1946; Bournemouth, Dorset, England
English composer Percy Whitlock is, to a degree, a study in compromised ambitions. He aspired to be a cathedral organist, but made his mark mainly as a "pops" performer in a municipal organ series. He wrote an extensive symphony for organ and orchestra, but he is now remembered mainly for light pieces. His death from tuberculosis at age 42 eliminated the possibility that he would develop into a composer with a more serious reputation, althoughRead more his music is quite effective, and the keyboard works can challenge a performer.
Whitlock began performing on a probationary basis at Rochester Cathedral when he was 7 years old. He attended the Royal College of Music from 1920 to 1924, studying with Henry G. Ley and Ralph Vaughan Williams. In 1921, he became the assistant organist at Rochester, but when he was passed over for the top job in 1930 he resigned and moved to Bournemouth to become organist at St. Stephen's Parish Church, a job he held until 1935. What occupied most of his attention from 1932 was serving as organist at the Municipal Pavilion, which required him to play all manner of pieces for a general audience. Whitlock was featured in BBC broadcasts, and wrote for local papers under the name Kenneth Lark, which he also used for some of his compositions. These melded late-Romantic, neo-Classical, and dancehall styles into appealing if modest pieces. Read less
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