William Alwyn was born in Northampton on the 7th November 1905. He studied at The Royal Academy of Music where, at the age of 21, he was appointed Professor of Composition, a position which he held for nearly 30 years. Amongst his works are five symphonies, concerti for oboe, violin, harp and two for the piano, various descriptive orchestral pieces, four operas and much chamber, instrumental and vocal music. In addition to this Alwyn contributed nearly 200 scores for the cinema. He began his career in this medium in 1936 writing music for documentaries. In 1941 he wrote his first feature length score for Penn of Pennsylvania. Other notable film scores include: Desert Victory, The Way Ahead, Odd Man Out, The History Of Mr Polly, The Fallen Idol, The Crimson Pirate, The Winslow Boy, The Card and A Night To Remember. In recognition of his services to the film medium he was made a Fellow of The British Film Academy, the only composer ever to have received this honour. His other appointments include serving as chairman of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain, which he was instrumental in forming. He was a director of the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, a vice-president of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (S.P.N.M.) and director of the Performing Rights Society. For many years he was one of the panel reading new scores for the BBC. The conductor, Sir John Barbirolli, championed Alwyn's first four symphonies and the first is dedicated to him. Alwyn spent the last 25 years of his life in Blythborough, Suffolk, where he completed two operas, Juan, or the Libertine and Miss Julie. In addition to chamber and vocal music, he composed his last major orchestral works there. When not writing music he spent his time painting and writing poetry and an autobiography entitled Winged Chariot. He died on the 11th September 1985 just two months before his eightieth birthday.
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