Michael Hurd

Michael Hurd was born in Gloucester on 19 December 1928. He was educated at the Crypt Grammar School and after National Service with the Intelligence Corps in Vienna, he read music at Pembroke College, Oxford as a pupil of Sir Thomas Armstrong and Dr Bernard Rose. He also studied composition privately with Sir Lennox Berkeley. From 1953 to 1960 he was on the staff of the Royal Marines School of Music as Professor of Theory. Thereafter he settled in Liss, where he worked as a freelance composer and author.

Although he wrote a number of chamber and orchestral works and provided scores for films and plays, he is principally known for his choral music. This includes large scale works for chorus and orchestra such as the choral symphony Shepherd's Calendar (1975) and the choral suites Music's Praise (1968) and This Day to Man (1974), as well as works for unaccompanied choirs such as Genesis (1987), Night Songs of Edward Thomas (1994), and Five Spiritual Songs (1996). On the lighter side, his ‘pop’ cantatas, beginning in 1966 with Jonah-man Jazz, and including such favourites as Swingin' Samson (1973), Hip Hip Horatio (1974), Rooster Rag (1975), and Adam-in-Eden (1981), are in regular performance throughout the English-speaking world. He has written three operas: The Widow of Ephesus (Stroud Festival, UK, 1971), The Aspern Papers (Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, Australia, 1995) and The Night of the Wedding (Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, Australia, 1998).

Michael Hurd was deeply involved in music-making in the Petersfield area, both as a conductor and an organiser. He joined the Festival’s main committee and its music committee in 1971, and was elected chairman in 1985. He was subsequently appointed President of the Society in 1991, a position he held until his death in 2006. He also lectured widely and made many broadcasts. Work for the British Council took him to Ghana, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and India. His music also took him to Sweden, Holland, the United States of America, and on many occasions to Australia, where he was closely involved in founding the prestigious Port Fairy Music Festival in 1990.

Among his eighteen published books are three pioneer biographies: The Ordeal of Ivor Gurney (OUP, 1978), Vincent Novello and Company (Granada, 1981), and Rutland Boughton and the Glastonbury Festivals (OUP, 1993). Other publications include biographies of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Mendelssohn, The New Oxford Junior Companion to Music (1979), The Orchestra (Phaidon, 1981), and An Outline History of European Music (Novello, 1968, revised 1988). He was co-editor of Letters of Gerald Finzi and Howard Ferguson (The Boydell Press 2001).

You can read more about Michael Hurd on a website dedicated to his memory and operated by Michael Sergeant, his biographer and executor of the late composer’s estate.

With acknowledgements to Novello & Company Limited.