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Sir David Willcocks 1919-2015 CBE, MC
18 September 2015
Oxford University Press is sad to announce the death today at his home in Cambridge of Sir David Willcocks.
He had an illustrious career as a composer, conductor, and organist, and his music was exclusively published by Oxford University Press, with whom he enjoyed a long, happy, and fruitful association.
In 1957, Oxford University Press appointed Sir David as an editor for the Oxford Anthems series, which he went on to develop over the next forty years as a substantial and distinguished body of music for church and cathedral choirs. David Willcocks, together with Reginald Jacques, compiled and edited a new Christmas carol collection, modelled on the content and spirit of the ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ Christmas Eve services, then being directed by Sir David at King’s College, Cambridge. The result was Carols for Choirs, published in 1961, which became instantly popular, and remains in print to this day. Sir David, with John Rutter, then co-edited the second, third, and fourth volumes of the series, along with 100 Carols for Choirs. The Carols for Choirs series re-defined and shaped Christmas music for millions of singers and listeners worldwide, and firmly established the importance of choral singing as an integral part of seasonal festivities and services. His famous and distinctive last-verse descants and harmonizations for the popular carols became important calling cards of Sir David: instantly recognizable, eminently and enjoyably singable, and emotionally uplifting for the listener. Sir David was also a composer of carols in his own right, and in 2014 Oxford University Press published, to mark his ninety-fifth birthday, a collection of his works in this genre, A Celebration in Carols.
Ben Selby, Director of Music at Oxford University Press, said “Sir David’s stature as a choral director and composer were an inspiration to professional and amateur singers around the world. The name of Sir David Willcocks is synonymous with English choral singing. He will be sadly missed.”