Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Lovelock (1899–1986)

by Warren A. Bebbington

This article was published:

William Lovelock, detail, 1959

William Lovelock, detail, 1959

State Library of Queensland, 196562

William Lovelock (1899-1986), music teacher, educationist, composer and music critic, was born on 13 March 1899 at Kennington Park, London, only child of Tom Lovelock, joiner, and his wife Minnie, née Seaby.  William attended Emanuel School, Battersea, and started learning to play the organ when he was 12.  At 16 he won an organ scholarship to Trinity College of Music.  His teachers were Charles William Pearce and the composer Henry Geehl, whose enthusiasm for band music and for writing for lighter entertainment, as well as in traditional genres, influenced him deeply.  After serving as an artilleryman on the Western Front in World War I, he taught at Trinity from 1919 and played the organ at St Clement Eastcheap (1919-23).  He also studied composition at the University of London (B.Mus., 1922; D.Mus., 1932).  In 1923-26 he was private organist to the first Viscountess Cowdray (mother of Lady Denman), a well-paid post that involved organising the summer musical entertainment at the Cowdray estate in Scotland.

A fellow of Trinity College and of the Royal College of Organists, in the following years Lovelock worked as a music teacher and examiner for both the college and the University of London and wrote his first music textbook.  On 19 July 1926 at the Church of the Ascension, Battersea, he married with Anglican rites Winifred Irene Littlejohn.  At the outbreak of World War II he was stranded in India, examining for Trinity, while his wife and son remained in England.  Commissioned in the Indian Army in March 1942, he rose to temporary major (1944) in the Ordnance Corps.  He wrote a concerto for piano and orchestra while stationed at Benares (Varanasi) in 1945.  Back in Britain in 1946, he rejoined the staff of Trinity College.  He produced more music textbooks, including A Concise History of Music (1953), and the perennial The Rudiments of Music (1957).  In 1954-56 he was dean of the faculty of music, University of London.

In 1956 Lovelock was appointed founding director of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, then located in the old South Brisbane town hall building.  He found the Department of Education an unsympathetic employer, unable to grasp that the new institution should be different from a state school, and in 1959 he declined to accept re-appointment.  Choosing to stay in Brisbane, he became the chief music critic (1959-81) for the Courier-Mail, an adjudicator at numerous eisteddfods and an examiner for Trinity College.  He also became a senior and influential examiner for the Australian Music Examinations Board.

Lovelock then intensified his output as a composer.  His compositions ranged from teaching pieces for children to full-scale orchestral, choral, brass, and military band works, including concertos for piano, wind instruments, harp, and organ.  He kept clear of the avant-garde, fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s, remaining attached to the pre-war, neo-Romantic genre of British composers such as Geehl.  His style was invariably melodious and harmonically conservative, for he wrote 'simply to entertain', and his moods focused on the light-hearted, the outgoing, the idyllic, or the energetic.  His structures were usually framed by learned forms, such as sonatas, fugues, or concertantes, but he wished 'to write for the performers, rather than against them', and his scores were polished and technically well crafted for their instruments.

Several of his major works, including flute and bass tuba concertos and a trombone concertino, as well as numerous teaching pieces for young people, have survived as part of the permanent musical repertoire in Australia.  Some, like the splendid Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra (1970), are among the most familiar Australian symphonic music pieces of that period.  The Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony orchestras recorded several of his works.  An unpublished catalogue lists many more compositions than were known to the public in his lifetime.

Equally prolific as an author, Lovelock produced nearly thirty music textbooks, including Common Sense in Music Teaching (1965), Elementary Accompaniment Writing (1971), General Knowledge for Music Students (1967), and Exercises in Formal Analysis (1973).  He wrote numerous enduring works for music examination candidates on orchestral arranging, transposition at the keyboard and harmony.  After the death of his wife in December 1981, Lovelock returned to England.  Survived by his son, he died on 26 June 1986 at Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Callaway and D. Tunley (eds), Australian Composition in the Twentieth Century, 1978
  • W. Bebbington, 'William Lovelock', in W. Bebbington (ed), Oxford Companion to Australian Music, 1997
  • H. de Berg, interview with W. Lovelock (ts, 1980, National Library of Australia)
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 26 May 1959, p 1
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 28 June 1986, p 38
  • Bundaberg News-Mail, 26 May 1959, p 1.

Citation details

Warren A. Bebbington, 'Lovelock, William (1899–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Lovelock, detail, 1959

William Lovelock, detail, 1959

State Library of Queensland, 196562

Life Summary [details]


13 March, 1899
London, Middlesex, England


26 June, 1986 (aged 87)
Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, England

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