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Percy Whitlock 1903-1946

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Bournemouth Pavillion Organ Fund

"he never lacked grace and charm...."

Percy Whitlock 1903-1946.

Percy Whitlock was born in Chatham, Kent on June 1st 1903. At the age of seven he was given a voice trial at Rochester Cathedral, where he was successful in being accepted as a probationer. This was the beginning of a long association with the organ loft. He was a scholar at the Cathedral Choir School and then the Kings School. He attended the Royal College of Music between 1920 and 1924. There he studied organ with Henry G.Ley and composition with
Ralph Vaughan Williams.In 1921 Whitlock became the assistant organist at his old 'alma mater'. The organist of Rochester at that time was Charles Hylton Stewart. At the same time Whitlock was able to be the organist and choir master at St Mary's Chatham and then at St Mathew's Parish Church, Borstal. It was always regarded that he would become the organist at Rochester when the post became vacant. However, a certain Harold E. Bennet was appointed to the post when Hylton Stewart left for Chester Cathedral. Whitlock resigned as assistant and moved to Bournemouth where he became organist at St Stephen's Parish Church. He remained there until 1935. However the main task of the thirties and forties was his appointment in 1932 as the Borough Organist at the Municipal Pavilion. He remained in this post until his untimely death in 1946. It was here, perhaps that he discovered his truly eclectic spirit. The post required an ability to play 'heavy' classics and 'light' dance music.
During this period he was much occupied with giving recitals in London, Bournemouth and other parts of the South. He gave performances for the BBC. A perusal of the appendices to Malcolm Riley's book shew a fine catalogue of journalism. A regular contribution to the Bournemouth Daily Echo was published under the pseudonym of Kenneth Lark. This 'nom de plume' was also used in a number of compositions written at the time. There were a number of literary contributions to the standard musical journals of the day.
Percy Whitlock died on the 1st May 1946, an untimely death at the age of 42. A loss regretted by all who knew him. L.S. Barnard writing the Obituary in Musical Opinion states that "[Whitlock] had the most extraordinary and endearing personal qualities. His personality carried with it an atmosphere of serenity and gentleness seldom encountered in these sophisticated and disingenuous times. He had, too, a virile wit and sense of fun…"  He was survived by his wife Edna who was also musician.

Percy Whitlock recorded 1926-1951
Amphion PHI CD 147 1997

Whitlock Organ Music 1999
ASV QUICKSILVA CD QS 6233 1999

Organist and Composer:
a biographical study
a review of what is considered
to be the definitive study of
the life and work of  Percy Whitlock

originally broadcast on May 26, 2003
by Minnesota Public Radio as part of
their Pipe Dreams programme

not complete by any means, but
a good overview of the recordings available
of this remarkable man's compositions

some photographs supplied by
the National Public Radio
programme Pipe Dreams, on
their website

the organ magazine
.

The Percy Whitlock Trust

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