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Photo © Andrew Palmer
Born in Northampton, England in 1905, William Alwyn studied flute and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He followed parallel careers as both flautist and composer; in 1926 he returned to the RAM as a professor of composition (a position which he held for nearly thirty years) and the following year he became a flautist in the London Symphony Orchestra.
His compositional output was varied and large and included five symphonies (championed by conductor Sir John Barbirolli), concerti for piano, flute, oboe, violin and harp, four operas, descriptive orchestral pieces and various chamber, instrumental and vocal music.
In 1936 Alwyn embarked on a prolific series of film scores, firstly documentaries and later for feature films. During his lifetime he contributed nearly two hundred scores for the cinema including notable film scores such as ‘Odd Man Out’, ‘Desert Victory’, ‘Fires were Started’, ‘The History of Mr. Polly’, ‘The Fallen Idol’ and ‘The Black Tent’. His work in the film field was recognised with his election to the Fellowship of the British Film Academy.
Alwyn’s other appointments included serving as Chairman of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain (a role he resumed in 1950 and 1954), Director of the Performing Right Society and Mechanical Copyright Protection Society and Vice-President of the Society for the Promotion of New Music. He was made a CBE in 1978.