Ernest Austin

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For the last person executed by Queensland, see Ernest Austin (murderer).

Ernest Austin (31 December 1874 – 24 July 1947) was an English composer.


Born Ernest John Austin in Poplar, Middlesex on 31 December 1874 son of William and Elizabeth Austin, his father was a shirt tailor.

He started composing in 1907 after a career in business and was self-taught. He was the younger brother of baritone and composer Frederic Austin (1872–1951).

Little-remembered today (he does not even have an entry in the comprehensive New Grove dictionary),[1] 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.[2] It was revived in November 1988 at St. Michael's, Cornhill, London, by organist Kevin Bowyer, who continues to perform it on occasion.[3][4]

Selected works[edit]


  • 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).




  • 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
  • Sonatas
  • 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)


  1. ^ As of 2007-06-10;
  2. ^ Kevin Bowyer: 20th Century European Organ Music: A Toast, in The IAO Millennium Book, ed. P. Hale, ISBN 0-9538711-0-X
  3. ^ Kevin Bowyer's performance of 'The Pilgrim's Progress' in Glasgow, 16 June 2007
  4. ^ Glasgow International Organ Festival: he performed the complete Pilgrim's Progress at the 2007 festival