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We devote ourselves largely to a group of organist composers. We tend to regard organists as having less to do with light music than do some other musicians, perhaps associating them with the solemnity of a church service. But by no means all organists held a church or cathedral position and even those who did had their lighter moments. Among the latter we have already, in earlier Garlands, pointed to Percy Whitlock, Norman Cocker, Herbert Brewer, Edward Bairstow and Herbert Sumsion and there are several others. Many organists were "concert" organists who toured the country, even the world – Edwin Lemare, Alfred Hollins and others – and their audiences often demanded from them music of the lighter sort.

Perhaps the "daddy" of all British concert organists (although he officiated in church too) was William Thomas Best (1826-97), forever associated with Liverpool, who, in addition to a plethora of arrangements for organ of orchestral works, composed such pieces as a Concert Overture and "Fantasies" on Carols and Old English Airs. Three lesser-known organist composers from either side of, indeed during, the Great War were Arthur W Pollitt (who published e.g. Ballade, Barcarolle in B Flat and Gavotte in D), Clifford Roberts (Chant du Matin, Sunset Reverie, Triumphal March) and H Sandiford Turner (Reverie in D Flat and Scherzo in F Minor).

Better known than any of the last three was Reginald Goss-Custard, born in 1877, whose brother Harry was also a concert organist. Reginald’s compositions for the instrument included Chelsea Fayre, An Evening Reverie (so many organists seems to have indulged in "reveries"), Concert Allegretto in E, Nocturne in D, Serenade No 1 in A, dating from 1908 and the Six Short Pieces 1910.

An earlier (late 19th Century) organist who indulged in light music though not – so far as I know - for the organ, was the Sheffield man George Lee, whose Signal Polka was published in his home city.

Finally for a mention of a more up to date figure: lyricist and composer Jeremy Sams, was responsible for many songs and for a musical version (one of several during the last generation as the story furnishes many musical opportunities) of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

Philip L Scowcroft

Enquiries to Philip at

8 Rowan Mount



Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at

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