Thomas Pitfield

New recording of songs by Thomas Pitfield - launch in May 2024

This new CD of songs by the composer, writer, poet, artist, illustrator, designer, teacher Thomas B. Pitfield - a 20th century 'Renaissance Man' if ever there was one - will be released in May 2024.

Tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Nathan Williamson recorded all of Pitfield's songs for voice and piano at the Menuhin Hall in November 2023. All the songs on the disc are receiving their first recording. They display Pitfield's trademark diversity and wide range of colour and style, including folksong arrangements, settings of his own poetry, and settings of Pushkin in translations by the composer's wife, Alice. Other poets set include Katherine Mansfield, Charles Kingsley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Shakespeare.

Thomas B. Pitfield was born in Bolton in 1903 and died in 1999. His education was unusual to say the least – removed from school (illegally) aged 14 to be apprenticed to the engineering firm Hick Hargreaves, he painstakingly built up savings to undertake a single year of tuition at the Royal Manchester College of Music, aged 21. This course gained him no paper qualifications, so in a further bid for independence he trained as a teacher of art and cabinet work at the Bolton School of Art.

In his early career he taught these skills at various institutions in Lancashire and the West Midlands, also performing as a freelance cellist, organist and pianist – and composing. When some of his works were accepted for publication by OUP, Pitfield illustrated the covers himself, making such an impression that he was subsequently commissioned covers for many other composers’ works, most famously Benjamin Britten’s 'Simple Symphony'.

From the late 1940s he taught on the composition faculty of the Royal Northern School of Music, where he was remembered with great affection by several distinguished students, including John McCabe, Ronald Stevenson and Peter Donohoe.