Elgar Society News

A tribute to Sir David Willcocks

Long standing Vice-President of the Elgar Society, Sir David Willcocks, passed away at the age of 95 on 17th September 2015.

Perhaps best remembered as the director of the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge and the Nine Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve, Sir David also directed the Bach Choir, was principal conductor of the Three Choirs Festival on three occasions during the nineteen fifties and was conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. During the 1970s he became director of the Royal College of Music. Sir David’s musical career was interrupted during the Second World War, when he served in the British Army, earning the Military Cross for his actions on 15th February 1941.

David Willcocks collaborated with many composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett and performed with many British Orchestras including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Philharmonia and the LSO, making many memorable recordings. Among his many roles within music, he was also a noted editor, organist and composer.

He was created a Knight Bachelor in 1977 in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Honours.

In 1957 David Willcocks contributed to “Edward Elgar Centenary Sketches”, a book published by Novello commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edward Elgar. Although contentious in many ways, his contribution, entitled “A Modern View” contains the following paragraph:

“That Elgar’s music should have held its place in the cathedrals, concert halls and recital rooms of this country as it has done during the last thirty years is proof, if proof were required, of the abiding value of his best works.”

David Willcocks’ work as a choral director and trainer, writer, conductor and teacher is proof, if proof were required, of the abiding value of his best works.