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Michael Head

Michael Head (28 January 1900 – 24 August 1976) was a British composer, pianist, organist and singer who left some enduring works still popular today. He was noted for his association with the Royal Academy of Music. His compositional oeuvre mainly consists of songs, as well as choral works and few larger-scale pieces such as a piano concerto.

Michael Dewar Head was born in Eastbourne, United Kingdom on 28 January 1900. His father was a barrister and journalist and his mother an accomplished amateur singer and pianist. His mother’s influence evidently dominated, and at age 10 he commenced his musical training, taking lessons in piano with Jean Adair and in singing with Fritz Marston at the Adair-Marston School of Music. He was educated at Monkton Combe School in Somerset.

He began to study at the Royal Academy of Music but was soon called up for service in the War. While working at an ammunition factory, he composed the song cycle Over the rim of the moon (Head et al., 1920). This was to become his first published work.

After the war, Head resumed his studies at the Academy. He studied composition with Frederick Corder, piano with T B Knott and organ with Reginald Steggall. He won the Sir Michael Costa scholarship for composition. He also won other awards for composition, sight singing and harmony. In 1924 Michael Head was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. Two years later, he took up a post at Bedales School, Petersfield, where he taught for three years.

Head gave his first public recital as a self accompanied singer at Wigmore Hall in 1929. After this debut performance, his fame grew rapidly. He gave several more recitals in the British Isles and in many parts of the world. Additionally he gave several radio recitals, both in Britain and Canada. He took up the post of Pianoforte Professor at the Royal Academy in 1927 after an invitation by Sir John McEwen. This post he was to hold until his retirement in 1975.

Head was appointed an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and as such toured many countries, including Barbados, where he first met and became friends with Organist Dr. John George Fletcher in April 1969, South Africa and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). At the outbreak of World War II, he returned to London and continued teaching throughout the blitz. During this time, he gave hundreds of concerts in factories and in small towns.

Head died in Cape Town on 24 August 1976, from a sudden and unexpected illness, while examining for the Associated Board in Rhodesia and South Africa.



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