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MICHAEL HURD  

(1928 - 2006)

Michael Hurd was born in Gloucester in 1928. After studying music both at Oxford (where he composed incidental music for Neville Coghill’s 1952 Hamlet) and privately with Lennox Berkeley, he taught composition at the Royal Marines School of Music from 1953 to 1959. He then settled in Hampshire, spending the rest of his working life composing, writing, conducting and talking about music. As well as the lastingly popular works for children on this recording, his compositional output was centred on choral and vocal pieces, with a marked enthusiasm for and skill at setting verse. The Missa Brevis (1966), Five Spiritual Songs (1995) and Night Songs of Edward Thomas (1990) are fine examples. Geoffrey Bush, in the New Grove entry of 2001, praised Hurd as a traditionalist, remarking on his lyrical invention, sensitivity to words and understanding of the voice. In his own words, Hurd described his music as accessible and, in the conventional sense, very tuneful. He continued, “I have written a great deal for adventurous amateurs and for children. And I enjoy this, as I believe that a composer’s primary duty is to be useful to the community he finds himself in.” He also noted that performers should be stretched on occasion, but never broken.

As an author and musicologist Hurd has written many works, including the first and still authoritative biography of Ivor Gurney, a revision of the Oxford Junior Companion to Music, meticulously researched introductions to sea shanties and soldiers’ songs, a students’ outline of European music and brief lives of Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Mendelssohn. He also maintained a vigorous yet realistic championing of the life and work of Rutland Boughton. His lifelong association with Novello publishers was acknowledged in his entertaining official history of that company’s early years. Hurd’s last completed book was a co-editing with the late Howard Ferguson of the latter’s voluminous correspondence with Gerald Finzi.

Michael Hurd died in August 2006, aged 78.

© Michael Sergeant

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