George Lloyd, Composer

George Lloyd, Composer

George Lloyd was born in 1916 in St. Ives, Cornwall. The house in which George was born, St. Eia, now a hotel. Both of his parents were musicians. His father was a flautist and his mother played several string instruments.

George Lloyd started writing music when he was ten, had decided that he was going to be a composer by the age of fourteen. George Walter Selwyn Lloyd missed much of his schooling because of rheumatic fever. Because of this he asked if he might leave school to concentrate on music. Soon after this, the Lloyds moved to London where George studied composition with Harry Farjeon. He also studied violin for five years with Albert Sammons.

His First Symphony, written when he was 19 was premiered in 1933 by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Penzance with George himself conducting. The Symphony no 1 in A (1932) employs an individual use of the one-movement format at a time when this structure was uncommon in English symphonies

This was soon followed by his first opera, Iernin, the tale of one of the Nine Maidens (standing stones) who comes back to life as a fairy. The opera received its first performance at the Pavilion, Penzance in 1934.

A Second Symphony had its premier at Eastbourne in 1935 and was followed almost immediately by a Third Symphony which the BBC Symphony Orchestra performed.

The Serf was staged at Covent Garden when Lloyd was just 25 under the baton of Albert Coates.

However, World War II had left Lloyd physically and psychologically scarred: whilst serving in the Royal Marines Band, Lloyd was among the few Bandsmen to survive when his cruiser HMS Trinidad was torpedoed on the Arctic convoys. In March 1942 the ship was engaged in action against German aircraft and U-Boats. The Band were manning the transmitting station, the gunnery computer. The book, The Ship that torpedoed herself, HMS Trinidad tells the story that one of a trio of torpedoes fired by Trinidad suffered some kind of technical glitch, causing it to turn and head straight back towards the Trinidad. It exploded on the port side just by the Royal Marines station. The TS was below the waterline.

His own account reads “I am writing this account as I was the last to leave the TS and have always kept vivid memories of what took place. There were twenty one men in the transmitting station. Seventeen died. I was stationed close to the ladder, working the switchboard. The ladder was the only way of getting in or out...I was some way up the first ladder when I lost consciousness and remember nothing until I crawled out of the hatch two decks up. Somebody did try after me but the huge hatch cover fell on him and broke his back so I was the last out of the TS... Then I crawled across the mess deck and up a ladder to an upper deck where I lay down again. While I was there I heard a sailor from the deck below shouting ‘Anyone below’ ‘Anyone below?’..I should have shouted that help was needed for the TS, but I had no strength. Later, another sailor passed by and told me to go to the Galley and there I found Lou Barber, Corporal Palmer and some others”.

The trauma and severe shell-shock weaken his poor health, bringing about a complete collapse. He attempted to come to terms with his grim wartime experience in his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, works which only the devoted nursing of his Swiss-born wife Nancy enabled him to complete (in 1946 and 1948 respectively).

George's third opera, John Socman, was one of three commissioned for the Festival of Britain in 1951, alongside works by Britten and Vaughan Williams. John Socman is about a Wiltshire soldier at Agincourt. The libretto, like those for the two previous operas, was provided by his father William Lloyd.

Lloyd's health deteriorated further, and in 1952 he withdrew to Dorset where for 20 years he was a market gardener growing mushrooms and carnations. He continued to compose intermittently, but he found it difficult to get his work performed and became increasingly disillusioned. "I sent scores off to the BBC" he later said. "They came back, usually without comment."

Among those who continued to respond to his music's opulence, vigour and colour were the conductors Charles Groves and Edward Downes and the pianist John Ogden, for whom Lloyd wrote the first of four piano concertos, Scapegoat, in 1963.

The BBC, after neglecting Lloyd for years, accepted his Eighth Symphony for performance in 1969 - and finally got round to broadcasting it eight years later. His Sixth Symphony was given at the Proms in 1981.

Among the new works recorded were Lloyd's Eleventh and Twelfth Symphonies, which had their first performances in 1986 and 1990. Other major new compositions included a large scale choral piece, The Vigil of Venus, premiered at the Festival Hall in1989.

Lloyd suffered heart trouble, but recovered sufficiently to resume work on a Requiem, which he completed. He was survived by his wife Nancy whom he married in 1937. They had no children.

His music had began to regain something of its earlier popularity and when Lloyd died in 1998, his work was once again being widely performed.

The music of George Lloyd


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