Ernest Farrar

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Ernest Bristow Farrar (7 July 1885 – 18 September 1918) was an English composer, pianist and organist.

Life[edit]

Ernest Farrar was born in Lewisham, London. The son of a clergyman, he was educated at Leeds Grammar School, where he began organ studies and in May 1905 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. There he studied with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Sir Walter Parratt. He also took up several posts as organist in Dresden, South Shields and Christ Church, High Harrogate. At Harrogate, he worked closely with Julian Clifford. In 1913, he married Olive Mason in South Shields. His best man[clarification needed] at the wedding was Ernest Bullock.

His career was cut short by the outbreak of World War I, as he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards in 1915 and joined the regiment in August 1916. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment on 27 February 1918.

Farrar was killed on the Western Front at the Battle of Epehy Ronssoy, near Le Cateau in the Somme Valley south, west of Cambrai, in 1918. He had been at the front for two days.

His grave lies just outside the churchyard wall in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery Extension, in a corner under a few trees. A Requiem Mass was said at Micklefield, on 29 September, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. A concert was dedicated to his memory at Harrogate by Julian Clifford on 17 September 1919, including a tone-poem Lights Out written expressly for Farrar, and Farrar's work Variations in G for pianoforte and orchestra on an old British sea-song.[1]

Works and legacy[edit]

Despite his short life, Farrar wrote a large body of music for orchestra, voices and organ. His works include The Blessed Damozel, the Celtic Suite and his song cycle Vagabond Songs. However, apart from a few songs his works are now rarely performed. His orchestral music has been recorded by the Philharmonia Orchestra, and some of his songs and organ works have been recorded too.

Today, Farrar is perhaps best known as the teacher of Gerald Finzi. Farrar's death affected the young Finzi deeply, and from the very beginning, most of his music was elegiac in tone. Frank Bridge dedicated his Piano Sonata to the memory of Farrar.

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