Throughout his early years GB lived a remarkably ordinary life, shirking his piano lessons and yielding to a greater fascination with animals and literature and with exotic places, philosophies and cultures. It was not until his mid to late teens that a passion for music began to strengthen; however, his father enrolled him to study for the Indian Civil Service, desiring for his son a more respectable and reliable career than that of a musician.
GB often skipped lectures to attend concerts and spent many hours in libraries perusing scores to satisfy his thirst for music. As it became clear that life as a diplomat was not going to be a successful enterprise GB’s father presented him with further options for a suitable career and he was finally enrolled to study Chemical Engineering. This second career path was so totally alien to GB’s sense of anything exotic that it drained from him all feeling of well-being and he quickly became ill and he was banished by doctors to a dark room at home for six months. It was not long afterwards that his father was persuaded by the Principal of GB’s education in Chemical Engineering to concede to the young composer’s desire to study music.
In 1889, therefore, GB entered the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) to study composition with Frederick Corder where he was regarded as a diligent and knowledgeable pupil, well-respected by his peers and professors alike. GB exploited the Academy’s resources to première his new works which experienced various grades of success and critical acclaim in the London press.
On leaving the RAM in 1893 GB’s career was slow to take off but he initially found work as an editor of the New Quarterly Musical Review, and as a conductor of light opera. In 1894 and 1895, being employed by George Edwardes’ Gaiety Company, he took Sidney Jones’s ‘A Gaiety Girl’ on an international tour before returning home to conduct the more serious ‘Seamus O’Brien’ by C.V. Stanford on a national tour during 1895 and 1896. Between 1897 and 1900 GB held the post of Musical Director at the New Brighton Tower Pleasure Gardens where he extended the small seaside band to a full-scale symphony orchestra and presented concerts of music by Elgar, Parry, Stanford, Sibelius, Mackenzie, Corder and Wagner.
In 1900 he accepted the post of Principal at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (now the Conservatoire) and in 1908, upon Elgar’s recommendation, he became Peyton Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham. GB held both posts until his retirement in 1934. He also taught at Trinity College, London: in the original building at Mandeville Place there is a memorial window to him on the main staircase.
GB’s career reached its full momentum as a busy and important academic, composer, examiner, adjudicator, editor, conductor and committee member for a variety of institutions. He was knighted for his services to music and education in 1930.
Aside from his career as a musician he was a devoted husband to his wife, the poet Helena von Schweitzer, and a loving father to his four children.
GB died in London in 1946.
THE GRANVILLE BANTOCK SOCIETYChairman
The Red House