1863–1929

Introduction

Born: De­cem­ber 7, 1863, Hack­ney, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Died: Feb­ru­a­ry 29, 1929, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Buried: Gold­er’s Green Ce­me­te­ry, Lon­don, Eng­land.

portrait

Biography

John’s fa­ther, Will­iam West, was an or­gan­ist and found­er of the North-East Lon­don Acad­e­my of Music. His mo­ther, the self-styled Ma­dame Cla­ra West, was a pro­fess­ion­al so­pra­no, and his sis­ter, Lot­tie West, a pro­fess­ion­al con­tral­to so­lo­ist, pi­an­ist and teach­er.

West was taught at home by his fa­ther and re­ceived or­gan less­ons from Fred­er­ick Bridge, or­gan­ist at West­min­ster Ab­bey.

From 1880–82, he stu­died at the Roy­al Acad­e­my of Mu­sic, where he was taught com­po­si­tion by his un­cle, Eb­en­e­zer Prout, the re­spect­ed au­thor­i­ty on the fugues of Bach. He gained his As­so­ci­ate­ship from the Acad­e­my in 1898 and passed the Fel­low­ship ex­am of the then Col­lege of Or­gan­ists (it did not re­ceive Ro­yal sta­tus un­til 1893).

He held suc­cess­ive or­gan posts in Lon­don at St. Ma­ry’s, Bour­don Street (1884–91); St. John of Je­ru­sa­lem, South Hack­ney (1891–97); and St. Au­gus­tine’s, Queen’s Gate (1897–1902).

He con­duct­ed var­i­ous chor­al so­ci­e­ties and choirs in Lon­don, Read­ing, Croy­don and War­ling­ham and last­ly, the Rail­way Clear­ing House Male-Voice Choir. This choir was high­ly re­gard­ed in the ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry, as re­views in The Mu­sic­al Times re­veal. It was fa­mous enough to se­cure the ser­vic­es of Stan­ford Ro­bin­son as con­duct­or af­ter West’s death.

In 1884, on his twen­ty-first birth­day, he en­tered the mu­sic pub­lish­ing firm of No­vel­lo & Com­pa­ny in Lon­don as an as­so­ci­ate ed­it­or. Fol­low­ing the death of Ber­thold Tours in 1897, West suc­ceed­ed to the post of chief ed­it­or and ad­vis­er. He was fol­low­ing in il­lus­tri­ous foot­steps: apart from Tours, the post had been oc­cu­pied by Jo­seph Barn­by and John Stain­er. He stayed at No­vello’s for 45 years, of which 32 were spent as chief ed­it­or. He re­tired short­ly be­fore his death in 1929.

He was a pro­li­fic com­pos­er and ed­it­or with near­ly 500 pub­lished pieces to his name. He was a pi­o­neer in the field of ed­it­ing, es­pe­cial­ly chor­al and or­gan music from ear­li­er centuries. He pre­pared ed­i­tions of Bach’s Six Mo­tets and Brahms’ Re­qui­em. He al­so found time to write an ar­range­ment of El­gar’s Enig­ma Var­i­a­tions for pi­a­no­for­te du­et.

He was award­ed the FRAM in 1919 for his ser­vic­es to music and for bring­ing dis­tinc­tion on his al­ma ma­ter.

He col­lapsed on the stage of West­min­ster Cen­tral Hall af­ter con­duct­ing the third it­em in a con­cert by the Rail­way Clear­ing House Male-Voice Choir. He was rushed to near­by West­min­ster Hospital where he was pro­nounced dead. He would have been driv­en past the twin towers of West­min­ster Ab­bey, where it all be­gan some 50 years be­fore.

Publications

Sources

Music