Hyperion Records

Michael Head

born: 28 January 1900
died: 24 August 1976
country: United Kingdom

Born in Eastbourne on 28 January 1900, Michael Dewar Head began studying music seriously from the age of twelve, learning to play the piano with Jean Adair, a pupil of Clara Schumann. His potential talent as a singer was also apparent and he studied singing with Fritz Marston. Having been rejected for military service in January 1918, Head was directed to work in a munitions factory; following this he undertook land work in Dorset. In 1919 his first song, The ships of Arcady, was published and he entered the Royal Academy of Music to study composition with Frederick Corder. Curiously, given its importance in his subsequent career, he did not study singing any further while there. At the Academy, Head became friends with a fellow composer, Alan Bush, who performed his Concerto for Piano and Strings there in 1922. The following year it was performed again by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, played by another friend, Maurice Cole, and conducted by Sir Dan Godfrey.

Head composed more songs during the 1920s, and in 1927 he was appointed professor of piano at the Academy, a post he held until his retirement. Two years later he sang to Sir George Henschel, who encouraged him to follow his own singular practice of performing both as singer and accompanist. Head embraced the proposal, giving his first recital in January 1930, and he continued to perform in this manner throughout the rest of his career with conspicuous success. In the next decade two other strands of work, adjudication and examining, commenced. By 1939 he had written some fifty songs, but during the war he sought the advice of Alan Bush, by now his brother-in-law, which led to Head’s studying with him. Also at this time Head played in many chamber concerts across the country under the auspices of CEMA (the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts), and he established himself as a broadcaster.

After the war Head’s adjudication and examination activities expanded with tours abroad, including to Canada, during which he also gave his most ambitious broadcast ‘The History of Song in Words and Music’ for CBC Transatlantic Canada. In 1952 he made his first recital tour to the USA and established a duo partnership with the oboist Evelyn Rothwell, for whom he composed his Elegiac Dance and Presto (both 1954). To this decade also belong a children’s opera, The Bachelor Mouse (1951), with a libretto by his sister Nancy, and incidental music for a series of radio plays by Pamela Hansford Johnson based on Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. Although song-writing remained his core compositional activity, his range broadened during the 1960s and 1970s: he composed a cantata Daphne and Apollo (1964), with a text by his sister, who also provided librettos for several satirical one-act light operas including After the Wedding (1970), first performed at the Royal Academy in 1972 under the baton of a student conductor—Simon Rattle. After retiring from the Academy in 1975 Head continued working for the Associated Board of the Royal Colleges of Music, and he was on a tour examining in South Africa when he died on 24 August 1976 in Cape Town.

from notes by Andrew Burn 2012

Albums
'Head: Songs' (CDA67899)
Head: Songs
'A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey' (CDA67716)
A Christmas Caroll from Westminster Abbey
Complete works available for download
A Green Cornfield Ailish Tynan (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
A Piper Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Dear delight Ailish Tynan (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Had I a golden pound Ailish Tynan (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Lean out of the window Roderick Williams (baritone), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Love's Lament Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
My sword for the King Roderick Williams (baritone), Christopher Glynn (piano)
October Valley Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Oh, for a March wind Ailish Tynan (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Over the rim of the moon Ailish Tynan (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Star Candles Ailish Tynan (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Tewkesbury Road Roderick Williams (baritone), Christopher Glynn (piano)
The little road to Bethlehem Westminster Abbey Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
The little road to Bethlehem Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Three Songs of Venice Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
You cannot dream things lovelier Roderick Williams (baritone), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
A blackbird singing  No 3 of Over the rim of the moon (Head)
A Green Cornfield (Head)
A Piper (Head)
A shower of pigeons arch over the rooftops  First line to St Mark's Square, No 2 of Three Songs of Venice (Head)
As I walked down the road at set of sun  First line to The little road to Bethlehem (Head)
Barefoot I went and made no sound  First line to The Viper, No 2 of Six Poems of Ruth Pitter (Head)
Beloved  No 2 of Over the rim of the moon (Head)
Dark, he moves from shade to sun  First line to The Gondolier, No 1 of Three Songs of Venice (Head)
Dear delight (Head)
Farewell to the feasting  First line to My sword for the King (Head)
Foxgloves  No 1 of More Songs of the Countryside (Head)
Had I a golden pound (Head)
I fell in love with a Limehouse lass  First line to Limehouse Reach, No 2 of Six Sea Songs (Head)
It is good to be out on the road  First line to Tewkesbury Road (Head)
Its former green is blue and thin  First line to The Garden Seat, No 2 of More Songs of the Countryside (Head)
Last night, a storm of rain  First line to Rain storm, No 3 of Three Songs of Venice (Head)
Lean out of the window (Head)
Light, stillness and peace lie on the broad sands  First line to The Estuary, No 6 of Six Poems of Ruth Pitter (Head)
Limehouse Reach  No 2 of Six Sea Songs (Head)
Love's Lament (Head)
Money, O!  No 6 of Songs of the Countryside (Head)
More Songs of the Countryside (Head)
My sword for the King (Head)
Nocturne  No 4 of Over the rim of the moon (Head)
Nothing but sweet music wakes  First line to Beloved, No 2 of Over the rim of the moon (Head)
October Valley (Head)
Oh, for a March wind (Head)
Over the rim of the moon (Head)
Rain storm  No 3 of Three Songs of Venice (Head)
Six Poems of Ruth Pitter (Head)
Six Sea Songs (Head)
Songs of the Countryside (Head)
St Mark's Square  No 2 of Three Songs of Venice (Head)
Star Candles (Head)
Sweet Chance, that led my steps abroad  No 5 of Songs of the Countryside (Head)
Tewkesbury Road (Head)
The earth was green, the sky was blue  First line to A Green Cornfield (Head)
The Estuary  No 6 of Six Poems of Ruth Pitter (Head)
The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue  First line to Foxgloves, No 1 of More Songs of the Countryside (Head)
The Garden Seat  No 2 of More Songs of the Countryside (Head)
The Gondolier  No 1 of Three Songs of Venice (Head)
The little road to Bethlehem (Head)
The ships of Arcady  No 1 of Over the rim of the moon (Head)
The sun's in his cradle  First line to Star Candles (Head)
The Viper  No 2 of Six Poems of Ruth Pitter (Head)
Three Songs of Venice (Head)
Thro' the faintest filigree  First line to The ships of Arcady, No 1 of Over the rim of the moon (Head)
Under his feet the furrows run  First line to October Valley (Head)
When I had money, money, O!  First line to Money, O!, No 6 of Songs of the Countryside (Head)
Why were you born when the snow was falling?  First line to Love's Lament (Head)
You cannot dream things lovelier (Head)
Youngling fair, and dear delight  First line to Dear delight (Head)
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