Sir David Willcocks, British choirmaster, died at 95

  Dead Famous

Sir David Valentine Willcocks, born on December 30, 1919 and died September 17, 2015.

Sir David was a British choral conductor, organist, composer and music administrator.

He is particularly well-known for his association with the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, which he directed from 1957 to 1974, making frequent broadcasts and recordings.

Born in Newquay, Cornwall, to Theophilus, a Barclays Bank manager, and his wife Dorothy, Willcocks displayed such musical promise that he was sent as a boy to join the choir of Westminster Abbey for four years.

Henry Walford Davies was the organist at the time.

An early sign of political awareness was shown when the master, playing a chord to the young Willcocks, asked him: “Do you hear the voice of God in that chord, my boy?” “Oh yes, sir,” came the immediate reply.

On leaving the abbey, he became a scholar at Clifton college.

He had such facility in organ playing and in general musicianship that he next took what later seemed to be an inevitable step, winning an organ scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where the organist and choirmaster was Boris Ord.

After one year of study the war intervened and Willcocks served with immense distinction in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in Normandy, attaining the rank of major at a young age. In 1944 he was awarded the Military Cross.

With typical humility he was always rather coy about this honour, remarking that it was an accident that he had taken so many prisoners, that luck had led him through it all.

After the war he resumed his organ scholarship, and it may be assumed that it was at this time that he acquired the baffling art (stupefying at parties) of sitting cross-legged on the floor and playing jazz, his back to the piano, with hands crossed behind his head.

He was a whippy man who was naturally gifted at sport. His lethal game of squash led many a cocky choral scholar to concede a whimpering defeat.

Willcocks then became a fellow of King’s (1947-50) and at the same time organist of Salisbury Cathedral.

As choirmaster and organist at Worcester Cathedral (1950-1957) he also conducted the Three Choirs Festival, until the call from King’s took him back to Cambridge, now as fellow and organist, the successor to Ord.

Sir David Willcocks died at age 95 on September 17, 2015.