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William Gillies Whittaker (Writer, Composer, Arranger)

Born: July 23, 1876 - Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Died: July 5, 1944 - Orkney Islands

The respected English choral conductor, pedagogue, and composer, W(illiam) G(illies) Whittaker, studied science at Armstrong College, University of Durham, and also received training in organ and singing before joining its faculty in 1898.

W.G. Whittaker was the 1st Gardiner Professor of Music at the University of Glasgow (1929-1938) and was principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow (1929-1941). He was also was active as a choral conductor. He has particularly devoted himself to choral conducting in Northumberland and obtained conspicuously fine musical results from the choirs under his control. These have included classes at Armstrong College, the Newcastle and Gateshead Choral Union and the Newcastle Bach Choir. The last-named, a small body of picked singers, was founded and trained by him for the purpose of giving Bach's cantatas in conditions approximating to those for which they were intended. Whittaker brought his Bach Choir to London for a three days festival in 1922. He gave the first complete performance of Byrd's Great Service at Newcastle and repeated it at St. Margaret's, Westminster, in 1924.

W.G. Whittaker was well-known as a Bach conductor and scholar, and edited various instrumental works of the 17th and 18th centuries. He composed A Lykewake Dirge and The Celestial Sphere for Chorus and Orchestra; Psalm CXXXIX; Among the Northumbrian Hills, piano quintet; piano pieces; songs; many choral arrangements of folk-songs. He was editor of the series of Bach's cantatas with English texts by C. Sanford Terry, published by Oxford University Press.


Fugitive Notes on Certain Cantatas and the Motets of ].S. Bach (London, 1924)
Class Singing (London, 1925; 2nd edition, 1930)
Collected Essays (Oxford, 1940)
The Cantatas of J.S. Bach, Sacred and Secular (London, 1959)


Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition; Author: H.C. Colles)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2007, August 2007)

William Gillies Whittaker: Short Biography | Piano Transcriptions: Works | Recordings | Other Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings of Works for Orchestra
The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: Sacred & Secular | Fugitive Notes on Certain Cantatas and the Motets of J.S. Bach

Links to other Sites

Whittaker Collection (University of Glasgow)




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