March 17, 2014
Through some friends, in 1999, I happened to meet the eminent British conductor/composer, Sir David Willcocks. Then almost 80, he took me and a friend on a brisk walking tour of King’s College, Cambridge University, that left us scrambling to keep up — all the while telling anecdotes of his time as a student, teacher, and Director of Music at King’s College.
During a return visit in 2010, I was able to visit him once again at his home in Cambridge. Although that visit was short, we spent a good portion of it talking music. After giving me an impromptu lesson on the execution of phrasing in psalmody, he showed me a proof of a piece he submitted to Oxford University Press, his publisher.
The song was “You Bring Me Happiness.” He sat down at the piano, played through it, and explained that it was one of a few songs he wrote as a soldier during Word War II. The song, arranged for piano and SATB chorus, evokes tenderness in a “jazzy style,” and is reminiscent of something from a British music hall, complete with a big piano glissando at the end.
He also wrote the words — although, while I was there, he kept trying to attribute them to his daughter Anne, who was also there and kept insisting he wrote them all. At one point, while showing me the proofs, he mentioned that he has a reciprocal arrangement with his friend John Rutter: Rutter would check his proofs and David would check Rutter’s.
With the support of David’s family, particularly from his son Jonathan, also a composer of note, we are happy to premier his song in the United States. This song shows another side of this legendary musician.