Born Ernest John Austin in Poplar, Middlesex on 31 December 1874 son of William and Elizabeth Austin, his father was a shirt tailor.
Little-remembered today (he does not even have an entry in the comprehensive New Grove dictionary), his orchestral music enjoyed some success in its own time, including performances at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. He was a prolific composer of songs, covering a wide spectrum of mood, from serious Shakespearean settings to ballads of both sentimental and robust natures. He also made piano transcriptions of the work of other composers, a particularly common practice of the time.
Part of 12th movement: trumpet fanfares on the organ and choir singing. Played by Kevin Bowyer
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His best-known work is probably The Pilgrim's Progress, a 12-section narrative tone poem setting for a solo organ of the work by John Bunyan; it takes about 2¾ hours to perform. There is a text which explains what is happening at each stage of the music which can be read by a narrator, and in the 12th movement, there are optional parts for choir (SSATTB), bells, and a solo violin. It was revived in November 1988 at St. Michael's, Cornhill, London, by organist Kevin Bowyer, who continues to perform it on occasion.
- The Pilgrim's Progress, Op.41; 12-movement narrative tone poem in 4 parts, with optional choir (SSATTB), bells, solo violin and narrator (1912–1920).
- 5 Piano Trios, in part based on traditional melodies (before 1914)
- In Field and Forest, for flute, French horn, and piano
- Lyric Sonata, for violin and piano
- Variations on The Vicar of Bray, Op.35, for string orchestra (1910, played at the Proms)
- Stella Mary Dances, Op.58, orchestral suite (1918, played at the Proms)
- Sweet Night, for flute, clarinet, cornet, and string orchestra
- Suites: 6 Dream Themes; 4 English Pastorals; To Music (7 movements); Under Blue Skies; around 25 Tone Stanzas (1908–1924)
- 2 books of Preludes, Op.56
- Indian Pipe Dance (1921)
- 14 Sonatinas for children, on English folk-songs
- Through the Eyes of Youth
- Transcriptions of songs, Sevillana, and Mot d'Amour, by Edward Elgar (1926)
- Song-cycles: Songs from the Highway; A Sheaf of Songs (5)
- Single songs: Aspiration; Fountain Song; I Made Thee Mine; The Infinite Voice; Life; Sigh No More Ladies; April Wears a Smiling Face; Tony the Turtle; Cradle Song; Sea Dogs; Sleep Little Rose; Sweet Night; The Woodland Tailor; A Song of Folly; Thoughts (vocal setting of Brahms's waltz, op.39 no.15)
- With orchestra: Hymn of Apollo; Ode to a Grecian Urn
- Female voices: The Dream Maker
- Male voices: Home on the Range (cowboy song)
- Unison songs for children
- The Story of the Art of Music Printing (1913)
- The Fairyland of Music, described as 'a fairy tale with music' (1922)
- As of 2007-06-10; http://www.grovemusic.com/
- Kevin Bowyer: 20th Century European Organ Music: A Toast, in The IAO Millennium Book, ed. P. Hale, ISBN 0-9538711-0-X
- Kevin Bowyer's performance of 'The Pilgrim's Progress' in Glasgow, 16 June 2007
- Glasgow International Organ Festival: he performed the complete Pilgrim's Progress at the 2007 festival