William Alwyn (1905 – 1985)

Who was William Alwyn? 1William Alwyn was a versatile and highly prolific composer, producing a substantial body of work for the stage and concert hall and some two hundred pioneering film scores. He was also Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music and played an influential role in the public musical affairs of post-war Britain.

For the last twenty-four years of his life Alwyn lived in Blythburgh with his wife, the composer Doreen Carwithen, where he devoted himself fully to composition. His output – including five symphonies, four operas, ballets, chamber music, and many shorter piano pieces and songs – combines a strong romantic impulse and a telling melodic gift with rigorous compositional craft.

Alongside his position at the Royal Academy, Alwyn served as Director of the Performing Rights Society, Vice-President of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, and was a member of the panel reading new scores submitted to the BBC. In 1951 he was the first composer ever elected as a Fellow of The British Film Academy.

On Alwyn’s death Doreen Carwithen established The William Alwyn Foundation to promote her husband’s legacy, which led in turn to the founding of the William Alwyn Festival in 2011. The festival takes place annually in early October, presenting a series of eclectic concerts of classical, 20thcentury, and contemporary repertoire. As well as providing a major platform for Alwyn’s and Carwithen’s music, the festival upholds Alwyn’s championing of new music and education through the extensive commissioning of new work and support of emerging creative artists.