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Charles Kennedy Scott (Conductor, Organ)

Born: November 16, 1876 - Romsey, England
Died: July 2, 1965 - London, England

Charles James Kennedy Osborne Scott was an English organist, choral conductor and compser who played an important part in developing the performance of choral and polyphonic music in England, especially of early and modern English music.

Charles Kennedy Scott was educated at Southampton Grammar School, and entered the Brussels Conservatory in 1894. Beginning by studying the violin, he transferred to the organ under the outstanding virtuoso and teacher Alphonse Mailly (1833-1918), who encouraged a special interest in plainchant and in the phrasing of J.S. Bach's organ music: he also studied composition under Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath (1818-1896) (a pupil of Felix Mendelssohn), teacher of counterpoint and fugue, and under the organist-composer Edgar Tinel (1854-1912). In 1897 he took the Premier Prix avec distinction and the Mailly Prize for organ playing.

Charles Kennedy Scott settled in London in 1898 as a professional organist and teacher, and married a second cousin who had also studied at Brussels. In 1904, he founded the Oriana Madrigal Society, consisting of 36 voices, which made its first public appearance at the Portman Rooms in July 1905. Its initially stated object was 'to press the claims of our Elizabethan school', and 'to devote itself solely to the singing of English madrigals.' Scott was by chance shown the publications of the Musical Antiquarian Society, including a volume of madrigals by John Wilbye, and formed the determination to lift English Elizabethan music from its position of comparative neglect. He scored many examples over the next years and held gatherings which became the core of his society. Later on the number of voices was increased to 60, and its work was extended to include modern compositions, both English and foreign, but always with emphasis on the English.

The Oriana Choir brought high standards of precision and flexibility to choral performance, which had a beneficial influence on choral music in general. Their work naturally drew Scott towards the contemporary English scene, and he came to know H. Balfour Gardiner and Arnold Bax, and through them Norman O'Neill, Frederick Delius, Gustav Holst, Percy Grainger, Benjamin Dale, Roger Quilter and others.

Thus the Oriana gave madrigal concerts in the two series devoted to English contemporary music, of 1912 and 1913, promoted by Gardiner, and in the Philharmonic Society concert of November 20, 1913, under Charles Kennedy Scott and Balfour Gardiner, which also included part-songs by Charles Villiers Stanford, Gardiner and Hubert Parry. In 1920 they gave the first hearing of Delius's unaccompanied choruses To be Sung of a Summer Night on the Water. In 1922 they sang in a special concert of the works of Arnold Bax, with the Goossens Orchestra, giving the first performance of his motet for double choir Mater ora filium, a work dedicated to Charles Kennedy Scott.

In 1926 and 1927 the Oriana joined with the Bach Cantata Club for performances of J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor (BWV 232): in 1931 they sang works by Arnold Bax, Peter Warlock and Gustav Holst at a Festival for the International Society of Contemporary Music, and in 1936 they formed the core of a 100-voice chorus for the first London performance of Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, and for Heinrich Schütz' History of the Resurrection under Nadia Boulanger. All of these performances were given at the Queen's Hall, but latterly most Oriana concerts were at the Aeolian Hall, usually three times yearly, and often in collaboration with the English Folk Dance Society.

In October 1919 Scott founded the Philharmonic Choir, the predecessor of the present London Philharmonic Choir. This first appeared at a Philharmonic Society concert in February 1920, to give the first performance of Delius's A Song of the High Hills, and also J.S. Bach's Sing Ye to the Lord and L.v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (directed by Scott, under Albert Coates). Most of its concerts took place in the Queen's Hall, where the space available limited the membership to about 300. The choir contained a large professional element, especially among the tenors, in order to achieve a high standard of performance: the costs of their employment were met principally by Balfour Gardiner.

The Choir gave two or three concerts of its own each season under its own conductor, but also made very numerous appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Society, the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC, and the Courtauld-Sargent Concerts (established 1929). On March 25, 1920 they gave the first performance of Gustav Holst's The Hymn of Jesus, the composer conducting: they went on to introduce many modern works to London, including Delius's Requiem and Songs of Farewell, César Franck's Psyche: St Patrick's Breastplate, Walsinghame and This Worldes Joie by Arnold Bax; Requiem Mass by Sir George Henschel; April by Balfour Gardiner; Psalmus Hungaricus of Zoltán Kodály; San Francesco d'Assisi of Malipiero; The Prison by Ethel Smyth; The Canterbury Pilgrims and In Honour of the City by George Dyson; Ode on a Grecian Urn by Philip Napier Miles; Magnificat and Flourish for a Coronation by Ralph Vaughan Williams; Constant Lambert's Summer's Last Will and Testament, Igor Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, Sergei Rachmaninov's The Bells and Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler. The choir was suspended in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II: when the London Philharmonic Choir was formed in 1946 Scott was unable to resume direction, and a new conductor was appointed.

The choir played a major part with the London Symphony Orchestra in Sir Thomas Beecham's 'revitalization' of George Frideric Handel's Messiah in December 1926, and undertook much of the choral work in the Delius Festival of 1929. They gave many performances of the great standard works such as the Mass in B minor (BWV 232), the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and St John Passion (BWV 245), the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), the Requiems of W.A. Mozart and Johannes Brahms, and many of the G.F. Handel oratorios. As an offshoot of the Philharmonic Choir appeared the Junior Philharmonic Choir, consisting of two to three hundred girls and young men from the London Secondary Schools' Festival, who gave several concerts from 1932 onwards in major religious works by J.S. Bach.

Charles Kennedy Scott created the A Cappella Singers as a small group of 14 professional singers, forsinging madrigals and part-songs under chamber-music conditions rather than in the concert hall. It was first assembled in 1922, and gave most of its performances in private houses or for music clubs, though occasionally singing at Queen's Hall in company with other Kennedy Scott choirs. In 1914, at the Glastonbury Festival, Charles Kennedy Scott conducted the first performance of Rutland Boughton's opera The Immortal Hour. Also in 1922 Scott founded the Euterpe String Players. In 1926, he formed the Bach Cantata Club, with the aim of making known the church and secular cantatas of J.S. Bach and his instrumental works, performed with resources similar to those which Bach himself must have planned for when he was composing. There was a plan to amalgamate all four of the Kennedy choirs in 1939 for a series of 9 concerts illustrating a survey of choral music, but this was abandoned owing to the war.

Charles Kennedy Scott was a member of staff of Trinity College of Music, Marylebone, London, from 1929 to 1965. He taught singing, conducted the College Choir, and was involved in the governance of the College. The College holds an archive relating to him, including manuscripts of some choral works, personal notebooks, concert programmes including many for the Oriana Madrigal Society, press cuttings and letters including correspondence received from well-known English composers. The collection also includes programmes from the memorial services of famous musicians which belonged to Kathleen Ewart, a singer in the Phoebus Singers, also a choir conducted by Scott. Charles Kennedy Scott died, aged 88, in London.

Charles Kennedy Scott and his wife Mary (née Donaldson) were the parents of the aviator C.W.A. Scott (1903-1946) who was famous for winning the MacRobertson Air Race, The Schlesinger African Air Race and holding several England-Australia record solo flights, they also had a son John Kennedy Scott and a daughter Barbara Hamilton Scott, who married Major Leslie Stewart-Brown in October 1926. In 1946 whilst posted at the UNRRA headquarters in Germany his son C.W.A. Scott committed suicide.


Madrigal Singing: A Few Remarks on the Study of Madrigal Music with an explanation of the Modes and a Note on their Relation to Polyphony (London 1907): 2nd, Amplified Edition (OUP, London 1931): Reprint (Greenwood Press 1970).
Word and Tone: An English Method of Vocal Technique for Solo Singers and Choralists. In Two Books. Book I Theoretical, Book II Practical (2 vols, J.M. Dent & Sons, London 1933).
The Fundamentals of Singing: An Inquiry into the Mechanical and Expressive Aspects of the Art. (Cassell & Co., London 1954).

Scott also compiled and wrote two biographies detailing the life of his son C.W.A. Scott the famous aviator, one of the books mainly contains letters he received home from C.W.A. Scott over his entire life, with a biographical context added throughout the book by Charles Kennedy Scott. The other book is a shortened biography written almost solely by C.K.S. Both manuscripts remain unpublished, however, work has been done to digitally copy the hard copy's as part of ongoing work to create the digital back up of the Scott family Archive. this work is being done by James Scott, and Tim Barron who are both Charles's great grandchildren, they also plan to publish an edited version of one of these books at some time in the future once more work has been done to add some extra detail to what will become the publishable biography or life story of C.W.A. Scott.

Musical publications:
The Chelsea Song Book (folio), 20 traditional songs arranged for piano by Charles Kennedy Scott, with calligraphy by Margaret Shipton and 21 full and half-page chromolithographs by Juliet Wigan (Cresset Press Ltd, London 1927).
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi Stabat Mater edited and arranged by Charles Kennedy Scott, (OUP London c.1927).


Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Wikipedia Website (December 2016); Photos 01-04: Scanned by me Jimmy3d0 (talk), photos taken by Mary Donaldson, Sitters wife, my Great Grandmother - Scott Family photo album, 1925, owned by me his Great Grandson.
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2004)

Charles Scott Kennedy: Short Biography | Bach Cantata Club | Recordings of Vocal Works

Links to other Sites

Charles Kennedy Scott (Wikipedia)


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