My professor was exceedingly upset about this: ‘Once maternity takes hold, and that in marriage is inescapable, that’s the end of your composing’. True, we did indeed produce ‘one S’ and ‘one D’ (as the dictionaries say) but oddly enough my output appeared to increase.
Phyllis Tate (1911-1987) English composer and quite the character! Expelled from school at 10 years old, thereafter she didn’t set foot in a school until she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music at 17 years old. She was headhunted to the academy when a professor heard her play the ukulele, but the subjects she studied were timpani, composition and conducting.
All the music she composed before 1940 she destroyed herself, so what’s left for us to play today are pieces written after this year. Even so, there is A LOT for everyone to find, for all sorts of instrument combinations and occasions. She seems to have had an eye for unusual instrument combinations, how about e.g. Nocturne for four voices, string quintet, bass clarinet and celesta – or Songs for barytone, flute, clarinet, bassoon, french horn and harp. Of course, there are also the usual works for orchestra, sonatas, choir pieces, operas etc. Tate is however perhaps most known in Britain today for her Christmas carols.
Her works vary in difficulty from the most virtuoso parts to educational works for young musicians. She said in a radio interview that writing for not yet fully proficient musicians has taught her the best lessons of finding simplicity and the essence of music, and that it is much harder to write music for children than for adults!
Tate also said that “music should entertain and give pleasure” which certainly can be heard in the orchestra suite London Fields, which is as summery and floral as it seems. For contrast, one can hardly believe that the same composer is behind Triptych for violin and piano and the opera the Lodger. This opera was by the way reviewed like this after its premiere: ‘Other than Peter Grimes this is probably the most successful “first” opera by a native composer since the war’ (Harold Rosenthal in the Musical Times, September 1960).
There is a great website dedicated to Phyllis Tate: www.phyllis-tate.com They give you a complete works list, Tates own info on all pieces, where to get hold of scores etc. Go explore!