First published by the Blue Band magazine
George Lloyd (composer)
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George Lloyd (28 June 1913 - 3 July 1998) was an English composer of late-Romantic classical music.
George Walter Selwyn Lloyd was born in St Ives, Cornwall to a family with some money and great enthusiasm for music. He was mainly home-schooled because of rheumatic fever. He later studied violin with Albert Sammons and composition with Harry Farjeon.
George Lloyd showed his talent as a composer early. His first symphony, written at age 19, was premiered in 1933. A second symphony had its premiere in 1935 and was soon followed by a third. His first opera was performed in 1934 and his second was staged at Covent Garden when Lloyd was just 25.
The most extraordinary period in Lloyd's life began in World War II. As a Royal Marine bandsman, he doubled as a gunner on the cruiser HMS Trinidad, which served on the notoriously dangerous Arctic convoys. In 1942 a faulty torpedo did a U-turn in the sea and blew up his ship. Lloyd was rescued after seeing most of his fellow gunners drowned in oil. The subsequent "shell shock" triggered a complete collapse. Today this would be called post-traumatic stress disorder.
George Lloyd attempted to keep going and wrote two symphonies and an opera but his health deteriorated further and in 1952 he withdrew to Dorset, where for 20 years he led a double life. He was a market gardener growing mushrooms and carnations. He continued to compose intermittently, rising at 4.30am and writing for three hours before the start of the working day.
When George Lloyd stopped market gardening and returned to composing full-time in the 1960s, he was like Rip Van Winkle who had slept for many years to awaken to a new world. Musical tastes had changed. The musical establishment was enchanted by serialism and modernism.
"I sent scores off to the BBC" he is reported as saying later. The BBC's music policy was then heavily influenced by William Glock, who had a preference for European modernism. "They came back, usually without comment. I never wrote 12-tone music because I didn't like the theory. I studied the blessed thing in the early 1930s and thought it was a cock-eyed idea that produced horrible sounds. It made composers forget how to sing."
Among the few who responded to his music were the conductors Charles Groves and Edward Downes, and the pianist John Ogdon. The tide began to turn ever so slowly. Eventually many of his works began to be performed and a fair number were recorded.
Lloyd had heart trouble toward the end of his life, but recovered sufficiently to resume work on a Requiem, which he completed three weeks before he died at the age of 85. The score is inscribed, “Written in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales”, and the work is also a conscious leave-taking on the part of the composer.
He was survived by his Swiss wife Nancy. They married in 1937 and had no children.
Lloyd wrote several operas, including Iernin performed at Penzance (1934), The Serf (1938) performed at Covent Garden, and John Socman (1951) performed at Bristol, all to librettos provided by his father William Lloyd. Operas aside, George Lloyd composed much other music including 12 symphonies and 4 piano concertos, 2 violin concertos and a cello concerto, as well as several works for brass band and a large-scale choral-orchestral setting of the Latin poem Pervigilium Veneris, entitled The Vigil of Venus. Towards the end of his life Lloyd and his works enjoyed a remarkable Indian summer. The critic David Hurwitz observed in reviewing a recording of Lloyd's Symphony No. 11 for ClassicsToday.com that "George Lloyd composed one of the most impressive and appealing symphonic cycles of the 20th century.... All of Lloyd's music has great surface appeal, and this often conceals its intelligent organization and shrewd planning."
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