HE WORLD OF MUSIC have suffered a great loss today. Sir David Willcocks passed away at the age of 95. According to King’s College, he died peacefully at home on September 17. Sir Willcocks was a well-known British choral conductor, organist and composer.
Sir David Willcocks was born in Newquay in 1919, he became a chorister at Westminster Abbey at the age of eight, where he was conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. He directed the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, from 1957 to 1974, where recordings and broadcasts were frequently made. Before that, he served at the Salisbury Cathedral and the Worcester Cathedral. He was also director of the Royal College of Music in London. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1971 and was created a Knight Bachelor in 1977 in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Honors. He held honorary degrees from over ten universities in England, USA and Canada.
Sir Willcocks is particularly well-known for his association with the Choir of King’s College. His connection with the college began in 1939 when he became an organ scholar. He was elected to a fellowship in 1947 and subsequently held the post of Director of Music. There, he wrote several descants and carol arrangements for the annual service of the Nine Lessons and Carols. These descants and arrangements were published in the series of Carols for Choirs which he edited along with Reginald Jacques and John Rutter. Under his direction, the Choir of King’s College made numerous recordings and gave concerts worldwide. They also made appearances on television and radio.
His book, 100 Carols for Choirs is one that every parish must have in their music library! It is a selection of one hundred most popular carols and hymns for Advent and the Christmas season. There are some glorious descants and beautiful arrangements of the organ accompaniments in the book.
He wrote the famous arrangement of O Come, All Ye Faithful that being used all over the world every Christmas, including St. Peter Basilica in the Vatican. Here is a video of Choir of King’s College singing the carol at the Lessons and Carols 2009: