Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Floyd, Alfred Ernest (1877–1974)

by W. F. Chappell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Alfred Ernest Floyd (1877-1974), by Bernard Hall, c1927

Alfred Ernest Floyd (1877-1974), by Bernard Hall, c1927

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an3879791

Alfred Ernest Floyd (1877-1974), musician, was born on 5 January 1877 at Aston, Birmingham, England, son of Charles Hulme Floyd, Methodist minister, and his wife Annie Maria, née Maggs. In 1890 the family moved to Cambridge, where Floyd attended the Leys School. He was accepted as an organ pupil by Dr A. H. Mann, organist of King's College in the University of Cambridge; from Mann came elements of his later style both in extemporization and in accompanying the psalms. After leaving school he worked as a chemist in his brother-in-law's sulphuric acid works. He kept up his music and was accepted as assistant at Winchester Cathedral to Dr G. B. Arnold, who had been a favourite pupil of S. S. Wesley.

Floyd left Winchester to gain experience as a parish organist and choirmaster and held posts at Llangollen in Wales and at Oswestry, Shropshire, where on 11 January 1913 he married Frances Mary Griffiths (Daisy), daughter of Dr Aylmer Lewis. Meanwhile he completed his bachelor of music degree (Oxford) in 1912; J. C. Bridge and C. H. Kitson were among his mentors, and C. H. H. Parry one of his examiners.

In February 15 Floyd arrived in Melbourne to take up the position of organist and choirmaster of St Paul's Cathedral; he had been appointed from a field of two hundred applicants. In September 1917 the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred on him by the archbishop of Canterbury on the recommendation of a group of leading English church-musicians who had visited Melbourne. Floyd's interest in Melbourne school is witnessed by a string of school songs. He was in constant demand as an adjudicator at music festivals throughout Australia and in 1916-56 from time to time as examiner for the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music. For many years he lectured in music for the Workers' Educational Association and until 1963 for the Council of Adult Education. Precise, but with an impish humour, he quickly established an empathy with his listeners. In 1933-34 he made a foray into musical journalism as music critic of the Argus, enjoying the spate of concert-going despite its excessive demands on his time.

During Floyd's thirty-two years at St Paul's, his influence permeated the musical life of the cathedral. The superb standard maintained by the choir in daily and Sunday services was recognized as equal to that of the best English cathedrals. He introduced annual carol services before 1920, while his other special excellences were his extemporizations, much in the Wesley style, before service, and his accompaniment of the psalms which paralleled the light and shade of the words. He wrote several anthems, which were widely performed in Australia, and some organ music.

Floyd had a wide impact through his radio sessions for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. From 1944, at first in Victoria only and then nationally, he broadcast at 4 p.m. on Sundays; from March 1948 his 'Music Lovers' Hour' was played at 8 p.m. on Sundays, continuing, apart from a brief suspension, for twenty-four years. His approach was uncomplicated; his frail voice belied his essential vitality. Lindley Evans described him as the kindly elder statesman of musical broadcasting: 'He could charm the last sixpence from the canniest Scot, had he chosen to do so. In common with thousands of listeners I am filled with affection and admiration for this gentle man and fine musician'.

Dr Floyd's work received official recognition in 1948, when he was appointed O.B.E., and in 1971 when he was awarded an honorary D.Litt. from Monash University. He died at Armadale on 13 January 1974, predeceased by his wife and survived by two sons. His body was willed to the Department of Anatomy, University of Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • People (Sydney), 15 Mar 1950
  • Australian Journal of Music Education, Oct 1973
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 14 Mar 1929
  • Herald (Melbourne), 27 Dec 1947
  • Age (Melbourne), 15 Jan 1974
  • L. Evans, Memoirs (manuscript, copy held on ADB file).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

W. F. Chappell, 'Floyd, Alfred Ernest (1877–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/floyd-alfred-ernest-6199/text10653, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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