TFD wrote daily in his diary from the age of 16 in 1893, until his death in 1946. On the flyleaf of the 1895 volume he wrote: “The diary of Thomas F. Dunhill (musical student). An account of very startling events (if any), very unstartling commponplaces and a record of musical compositions”.
The extant 52 volumes (and scarcely a day missed) do indeed contain a great many startling events. In an on-going project the last few years, the diaries have been photographed and transcribed verbatim to form a continuous account of a British music scene over half a century, to which TFD was a close witness. His wide-ranging career encompassed numerous activities, first as a student under Parry and Stanford at the Royal College of Music, then teacher at Eton College, and subsequently Professor at the RCM, composer, arranger and editor, examiner for the ABRSM, adjudicator at music festivals, author and lecturer and occasional correspondent to the press.
He was further involved over decades in behind-the-scenes committees that, for instance, developed rights and copyright legislation for musicians, he supported the Society of Women Musicians and was a director of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
As a composer contemporary of Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst and John Ireland (among other student colleagues) his work included chamber music and art-songs, a symphony, ballet and light opera and cantata, educational studies and very many albums of easier piano music for home use. He wrote for numerous instruments and combinations. Most were published (by a variety of publishers). The progress of these, and notable performances are recorded in his diaries, along with opinions of new works by his contemporaries, and comments on many historic works in performance, often by famous international musicians in London and elsewhere.
TFD’s diaries, edited, will be presented in due course in a published form. In the meantime they now provide a useful resource for those interested in the music scene in London, from the mid-1890s until the mid-1940s. Please get in touch if you are interested in finding any particular event or person who might be included within the text. I will do my best to assist. PV
A rare piece of church music by TFD is to be sung by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge this coming autumn. Properly known as canticles, for Evensong service, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis settings were completed a century ago in 1917, though based on earlier drafts by Dunhill.
He took them to publishers Stainer & Bell who agree to publish them immediately. They were first sung at Westminster Abbey a little later.
Provisionally these will be sung by this fine choir in Clare College Chapel on Tuesday October 24th.
You are welcome to add to the collection of articles on this website, or comment on anything herein. This page is open to everyone who would like to contribute. It is moderated by Paul Vincent, a grandson of Thomas Dunhill, and all posts should be publicly available within 48 hours (except in exceptional circumstances).
Shortly a number of photographs of Thomas Dunhill will be added to the website, and by the end of the year a number of his diaries should be available as pdf’s, precis-ed from the diaries held at the Royal College of Music. A small charge will be made for each Diary Year, to help defray the costs of researching them! TFD wrote a diary from 1893 until 1946 in which he recorded very many musical events in London and well as progress in his own compositions, his daily routines of teaching and meetings with musical friends – and occasional romantic episodes.
This short and touching piece of film was made by Tom’s older brother Alfred at a house party in the late 1920s. It shows TFD with his daughter Barbara at around 7 years old.
All comments on this welcome!