Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Oldham, Arthur (William)

(b London, 6 Sept 1926). English choirmaster and composer. He studied composition with Howells at the RCM (1943–5) and privately with Britten. The first of his works to attract public attention was the ballet Mr Punch, given by Ballet Rambert at Sadler's Wells. Since that time he has worked as a choirmaster with the Scottish (later Edinburgh) Festival Chorus (from 1965), the Scottish Opera Chorus and the LSO Chorus (1969–76). Also in 1976 he was responsible for the formation, in Paris, of the choir of the Orchestre de Paris, and later the chorus of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. An early compositional career under the shadow of Britten (inevitably so, when both were concerned to write choral music of immediate appeal) was interrupted in 1952 by a nervous breakdown. He recovered and began to compose again towards the end of the 1950s, at about the time he entered the Catholic Church. He was made an OBE in 1989. Much of his music is intended for children. The harmony is largely diatonic, its vitality deriving from an original use of dissonance and unexpected key juxtapositions.


(selective list)

Orch: Variations on a Carol Tune, chbr orch, 1949; Divertimento, str, 1951; Circus Parade [suite from ballet Circus Canteen], 1952; The Apotheosis of Lucius, sym. study, 1952; Sinfonietta, wind band, 1974

Stage: Mr Punch (ballet), 1946; The Sailor's Return (ballet), 1947: Circus Canteen (ballet), 1951; ed., Love in a Village (op), 1952; Bonne bouche (ballet), 1952; The Land of Green Ginger (op), 1965

Choral: My Truest Treasure, SATB, 1951; 4 Occasional Anthems, 1952; Missa in honorem Santi Thomae Mori, SATB, 1958; Missa Sanctae Mariae Virginis, congregation, chorus, org, 1960; 2 Carols, SA, org, 1961; Laudes creaturanum (cant.), S, children's chorus, chorus, org, str, 1961; Hymns for the Amusement of Children, S, chorus, org/chbr orch, 1962; Remember, O thou Man, SSATBB, 1962; Blind Audley's Carol, SSATBB, 1965; Quem vidistis, STB, 1966; Sacerdos et pontifex, SATB, org, 1966; Now is the Time for Mirth and Play (C. Smart), unison vv, 1967; O Queen of Virtues, SA, 1967; Psalms in Time of War, Bar, chorus, orch, 1976; Epithalamium (Smart), chorus, org, 1989; Le testament de Villon, 3 solo vv, chbr choir, chorus, orch, 1997

Vocal: 5 Chinese Lyrics, 1v, pf, 1949; Summer's Lease (W. Shakespeare), T, str orch, 1950; The Commandment of Love, 1v, pf, 1951; Cantique de cantiques, 1v, fl, 1980; 5 Noëls, 1v, fl, 1997; 2 villancicos de Santa Teresa de Avila, S, Mez, pf

Chbr: Sonata, vn, pf, 1950

Arrs.: 5 Burns Songs, chorus, 1958; 6 Scots Songs of the XVIII Century, 1v, pf, 1959; 4 Noëls, SSA, 1963

Principal publishers: Boosey & Hawkes, Chester, Editions Salabert, Faber, Novello, Oxford University Press

MSS in GB-Lmic


C. Wilson: ‘Arthur Oldham’, MT, cvi (1965), 946–8

M.-F. Castarède and C.M. Guilini: Le miroir sonore: essai sur le choeur (Lyon, 1989) [incl. interview]


Oldham, Kevin (William)

(b Kansas City, MO, 30 Aug 1960; d Kansas City, MO, 11 March 1993). American composer and pianist. He studied at Northwestern University and at the Juilliard School, where his teachers included Herbert Stessin and Sascha Gorodnitzki. He made his orchestral début with the Detroit SO under Kunzel in 1980, and throughout that decade presented highly regarded piano recitals in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. In 1988, upon learning that he was infected with HIV, he abandoned the concert stage and devoted the rest of his life to composition. He checked himself out of a New York hospital to rehearse and perform his Piano Concerto with the Kansas City SO under William McGlaughlin in January 1993. The following day he was readmitted to a local hospital, where he died six weeks later.

Oldham’s neo-romantic style combined the lush virtuosity of early 20th-century Russian music (by composers such as Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev) with a jaunty American manner that owed much to film scores and music theatre. The simple and haunting Andante tranquilo from his Piano Concerto has been especially admired. Several of his works have been recorded.


Stage: Therese Raquin (op), unfinished; Titanic (musical theatre), unfinished

Vocal: 5 Songs, op.2: I am your Friend; Do I Know Why; Intermezzo, pf; Prelude, pf; Song Without Words in C; Gaspard de la nuit, 3 songs, op.3, S, pf: Ondine, Le gibet, Scarbo; 2 Waltzes, op.4, 3 S, pf, str qnt: Dingbat Waltz, Vocalise Waltz; 4 Songs, op.5: Will You Ever Dance to My Songs Again?, Pretending, All My Thoughts of You, Give me a Break; 4 Songs, op.11, S, unfinished; 5 Songs, op.12, Bar, unfinished; 3 Spirituals, op.13, unfinished; The Boulding Chorales, op.16, pubd: Can I Imprisoned; Small Flowers; Are there No Armies; My Lord, Thou Art in Every Breath I Take; 3 Carols, op.20, pubd: Away in a Manger, Joy to the World, Silent Night; 3 Pss: cxxi, cxxx, cl

Inst: Toccata, op.1, pf; 2 Inst Pieces, op.6; Variations on a French Noel, op.7, pf, pubd; Fuge, op.8, s cl, a cl, cel, pf; Sym. no.1, op.9, org, pubd; Pf Conc., op.14, pubd; 2 Nocturnes, op.15, pf; Ballade, op.17, pf, pubd; Prelude, Saraband and Toccata, op.19 [Toccata completed by S. Cohen] [see also vocal: 5 Songs, op.2]

Transcrs. of works by Bach (Sinfonia, D, bwv29; Fugue, G; Prelude and Fugue, D, bwv532), M. Duruflé (Org Suite, op.5)

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