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Early life and education
He was a pupil at Longsight High School, Manchester. Leaving school at the age of 14, he went to work at the Manchester textile firm of J. N Phillips and Co., learning office routine and account keeping. Joining the choir of St. John Chrysostom Anglican church, Victoria Park in 1886, he studied with the organist there, Frederick Pugh. He composed music for the choir there and became the librarian. In 1887, he also joined the Halle Choir in Manchester which broadened his choral experience widely.
Student and early lectureships
In 1888, Carroll (on the advice of Pugh) joined Owens College (later to become part of the Victoria University of Manchester) where he studied advanced music theory with Henry Hiles. In 1891, in the absence of a Music degree at Manchester, Carroll entered for the external Mus. B. degree of the Durham University. This was also the first year of the Durham Mus. B. examinations and Carroll was successful. On the recommendation of Hiles, Carroll was appointed Singing Master at the Owens College Day Training College for Teachers. In 1892, Carroll was appointed Organist and Choirmaster at St. Clement's Church, Greenheys, Manchester.
In 1893 he became a lecturer in harmony at the newly formed Royal Manchester College of Music and held chairs at the college of harmony and composition (1904-1920), replacing Henry Hiles on the latters retirement, and of the art of teaching (1909-1920).
In 1894, Carroll studied at Manchester University for the newly established Mus. B. degree and he was awarded this is 1896. In 1900 he became the first student to gain by examination, the degree of Mus. D from Manchester University.
Carroll started a training course for music teachers in 1907 and was appointed music adviser by the Manchester Education Committee in 1918. He gave up all his other work in 1920 to concentrate on music for children. Carroll regularly visited and advised teachers in about four hundred schools, lecturing on the teaching of singing, instrumental music, and music appreciation. The city’s education department had decided that children with no musical training should have a chance to perform. The Manchester Children's Choir was therefore formed in 1925 by Carroll from elementary schools in the area. The choir existed from 1925-1939 and gave concerts, usually in local town halls, during Civic Week. The concerts with the Halle lasted from 1929 until Walter Carroll's retirement in 1935. This choir performed on the famous 1929 recording of Nymphs and Shepherds.
Piano Music for Children
From 1912 until 1953, Carroll composed a substantial body of educational original piano pieces for children learning the piano. Teaching his young daughter to play, he was dissatisfied with the teaching material then available for the very young and their teachers. Returning from a family holiday in Scotland and filled with memories of their trip to Portpatrick, Carroll and his daughter Ida found that "the tutor (book), with its dull cover and queer contents, seemed very dull". Consequently the compositions were inspired by the Galloway countryside and published as collections with titles inspired by nature, starting with 'Scenes at a Farm' (1912), followed in 1913 by 'The Countryside'. 'Sea Idylls' appeared in 1914 and 'Forest Fantasies' in 1916. In 1922, 'In Southern Seas' (for the more advanced performer) made its appearance and in 1933, 'River and Rainbow'.
Published by Forsyth Brothers Ltd., these miniatures are still popular, one of them, "Alone at Sunset", was included in the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) 2011–2012 Grade 4 examination. "The Reef" (No.5 from In Southern Seas) is included in the ABRSM Grade 4 2019-2020 syllabus. "From the Cliffs", one of the ten pieces in 'Sea Idylls', has been a recurring entry for more than 60 years in Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 5 piano syllabus; in many of its syllabus issues over the years, any one of the Sea Idylls could be presented in that grade. "Walter Carroll's place in English teaching music is like that of Norman Rockwell in American painting," says Canadian pianist Arne Sahlen. "They both were derided for a time as cheaply sentimental, but public regard has risen for their work that expresses quintessential aspects of their countries and cultures." More than his own compositions, he is perhaps best remembered for his compilation for young piano students of short keyboard pieces by J.S. Bach, First Lessons in Bach for the Piano (Manchester: Forsyth, 1908).
- Walker, Anthony (1989). Walter Carroll, The children's composer. 126 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2GR: Forsyth Brothers Ltd. pp. 3, 4, 6, 7. ISBN 0 9514795 0 4.
- Manchester Faces and Places (Vol XVI No 2 ed.). Manchester: Geo. Woodhead and Co Ltd. February 1905. pp. 52–53.
- "Dr. Walter Carroll". The Manchester Guardian. October 11, 1955.
- Carroll, Walter (1951). The True Story of "Scenes at a Farm". 128 Deansgate, Manchester 3.: Forsyth Brothers Ltd. pp. Book.