Peter Gammond

Last updated

Peter Gammond (30 September 1925 – 6 May 2019) was a British music critic, writer, journalist, musician, poet, and artist.


Peter Gammond Peter Gammond.jpg
Peter Gammond

Peter Gammond was born in Winnington, Northwich, Cheshire. [2] The son of John Thomas Gammond (1892–1970), a clerk, and Margaret Heald (1898–1985), Gammond inherited his musical interests from his father, who was a skilful and well-known amateur cellist and instrument repairer.

Winnington village in United Kingdom

Winnington is a small, mainly residential area of the town of Northwich in Cheshire, England.

Northwich town in Cheshire

Northwich is a town and civil parish in the unitary authority of Cheshire West and Chester and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. It lies in the heart of the Cheshire Plain, at the confluence of the rivers Weaver and Dane. The town is about 18 miles (29 km) east of Chester, 15 miles (24 km) south of Warrington, 19 miles (31 km) south of Manchester and 12 miles (19 km) south of Manchester Airport. The population of the civil parish was 19,924 in 2011. Northwich was named as one of the best places to live in the United Kingdom by The Sunday Times in 2014.

Cheshire County of England

Cheshire is a county in North West England, bordering Merseyside and Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south and Flintshire, Wales and Wrexham county borough to the west. Cheshire's county town is the City of Chester (118,200); the largest town is Warrington (209,700). Other major towns include Crewe (71,722), Ellesmere Port (55,715), Macclesfield (52,044), Northwich (75,000), Runcorn (61,789), Widnes (61,464) and Winsford (32,610)

After early preparatory school in Weaverham, where he lived from 1930 to 1950, he was educated at Sir John Deane's Grammar School, where he attained distinctions in English and Art in the Higher School Certificate examinations. He won a scholarship to Manchester College of Art, having at the time an ambition to be a cartoonist, [3] but at the age of 18 in 1943 was called up and served in the Royal Armoured Corps as a tank driver mainly in the Far East and India, ending with the 25th Dragoons, which was involved in the Hindu-Muslim conflict prior to Indian independence in 1947.

Weaverham human settlement in United Kingdom

Weaverham is a village and civil parish in the Borough of Cheshire West and Chester and the ceremonial county of Cheshire in England. Just off the A49, it is just to the west of Northwich and south of the River Weaver, and has a population of 6,589, decreasing to 6,391 at the 2011 UK Census.

Sir John Deanes College

Sir John Deane's Sixth Form College is a sixth form college in Northwich, Cheshire, UK. It was formerly Sir John Deane's Grammar School, which was founded in 1557.

Manchester College of Arts and Technology is a former network of further and higher education campuses in the city of Manchester, England specialising in courses in the Arts and Technology, however courses in many other fields were also offered. MANCAT was merged with the City College Manchester in August 2008, forming The Manchester College, which is now the largest college in Europe, according to the TMC website. Over 500 courses were offered at all levels and the college was one of the largest in the Greater Manchester area, with sites at Openshaw, Moston and other locations. MANCAT had around 45,000 students, making it alone one of the largest further education colleges in the United Kingdom.

Upon returning to civilian life in 1947 Gammond continued his studies at Wadham College, Oxford, until 1950, where he read English. While at Oxford, he became well known in literary circles as a poet, appearing in three editions of Oxford Poetry , and as a cartoonist and writer with Cherwell . As poetry editor of the university magazine, The ISIS, Gammond worked under editors R. J. Harvey, Alan Brien, Robert Robinson, and Derrick Cooper. Gammond appeared in Oxford Viewpoint, where a study of his poetry by Irving Wardle was also published. During his time at Oxford, he composed and produced an operetta, Love and Learning, [4] and played trombone in a university jazz band led by John Postgate.

Wadham College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford

Wadham College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is located in the centre of Oxford, at the intersection of Broad Street and Parks Road.

Oxford Poetry is a literary magazine based in Oxford, England. It is currently edited by Nancy Campbell, Mary Jean Chan and Theophilus Kwek.

Cherwell is a weekly student newspaper published entirely by students of Oxford University. Founded in 1920 and named after a local river, Cherwell is a subsidiary of independent student publishing house Oxford Student Publications Ltd. Receiving no university funding, the newspaper is one of the oldest student publications in the UK.

On leaving Oxford, Gammond worked for a time in a West Country pub and as a rates assessor in Willesden, before joining the publicity department of the Decca Record Company in 1952, as an editor and sleeve-note writer, which led to his liaising closely with some of the leading classical and operatic performers of the time. He left the company in 1960 to become a freelance writer, critic and author. From 1964, Gammond edited Gramophone Record Review, later known as Audio Record Review, and remained as Music Editor when this was later incorporated into Hi-Fi News , until 1980. He died in May 2019 at the age of 93. [5]

West Country area of south-western England

The West Country is a loosely defined area of south-western England. The term usually encompasses the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and often the counties of Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, in the South West region. The region is host to distinctive regional dialects and accents. Some definitions also include Herefordshire.

Rates are a type of property tax system in the United Kingdom, and in places with systems deriving from the British one, the proceeds of which are used to fund local government. Some other countries have taxes with a more or less comparable role, like France's taxe d'habitation.

Willesden area in North West London, England

Willesden is an area in north west London which forms part of the London Borough of Brent. It is situated 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Charing Cross. It was historically a parish in the county of Middlesex that was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Willesden in 1933, and has formed part of the London Borough of Brent in Greater London since 1965. Dollis Hill is also sometimes referred to as being part of Willesden.

Writing, publications and broadcasting

Gammond's publications number over forty books, among them studies of Schubert, Mozart, Offenbach and record collecting. His oeuvre also includes volumes on jazz, ragtime and music hall, with biographical studies of Duke Ellington and Scott Joplin, and the Oxford Companion to Popular Music. Record sleevenotes, for virtually every record company of the day, accounted for a large percentage of his freelance work and total over three hundred. Gammond is particularly well known for his six contributions to the Bluffer’s Guides, including the best-selling Bluff Your Way in Music, which launched the series in 1966. So influential was his contribution in this area that The Times dedicated a leading article to Gammond on his death, celebrating the way in which 'the pioneer of talking off the top of your head enriched the national conversation'. [6]

Franz Schubert 19th-century Austrian composer

Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast oeuvre, including more than 600 secular vocal works, seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of piano and chamber music. His major works include the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 , the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 , the three last piano sonatas, the opera Fierrabras, the incidental music to the play Rosamunde, and the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.

Jacques Offenbach German-French composer

Jacques Offenbach was a German-French composer, cellist and impresario of the romantic period. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st. The Tales of Hoffmann remains part of the standard opera repertory.

As editor of Audio Record Review, Gammond instigated the annual 'Audio Awards', later the Hi-Fi News & Record Review Audio Awards', for 'services to the gramophone', which were the first of their kind for many years; recipients included Sir Neville Marriner, [7] Sir Peter Pears, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Dame Janet Baker. Gammond was a regular broadcaster for BBC Radio, contributing criticism to programmes on jazz, providing interval talks (for instance on Gilbert and Sullivan), [8] and featuring in the BBC Radio 3 'Building a Library' in Record Review on Saturday mornings, for instance with his choice of recordings of operetta [9] and Johann Strauss. [10] He also had an extended slot on the BBC Radio 2 arts programme, Round Midnight and on Forces Broadcasting. Gammond served as the British representative on the annual panel of adjudicators for the Grand Prix du Disque at Montreux in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hi-Fi News & Record Review is a British monthly magazine, published by AV Tech Media Ltd, which reviews audiophile-oriented sound-reproduction and recording equipment, and includes information on new products and developments in audio.

Neville Marriner English conductor and violinist

Sir Neville Marriner, was an English violinist who became "one of the world's greatest conductors". He founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and his partnership with them is the most recorded of any orchestra and conductor.

Peter Pears British opera singer

Sir Peter Neville Luard Pears was an English tenor. His career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, his personal and professional partner for nearly forty years.

Gammond was a prolific poet. [11] He was long an admirer of John Betjeman and was a past Chairman (1997-2002) and a Vice-President (from 2010 to 2019) of The Betjeman Society, the journal of which (The Betjemanian) he edited from 1996 to 2006. Gammond's publications include a number of volumes and bibliographic studies on Betjeman, and he scripted and appeared in the award-winning video Betjeman's Britain and its sequel Betjeman's London.

Musical contacts

From his early days, but in particular during his time with Decca, Audio Record Review and Hi-Fi News, as well as in connexion with adjudicating the Grand Prix du Disque, Gammond encountered many of the most prominent musicians of the post-war decades. As a boy he met Elgar, he played bar billiards with Finzi while at Oxford, where he also lunched with Sir Thomas Beecham on the same day he hosted Dylan Thomas, [12] and years later he dined with Stravinsky at the Savoy.

While compiling articles and publicity material he encountered such composers as Sir Malcolm Arnold, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland and Sir William Walton, and interviewed such singers as Kirsten Flagstad, Renata Tebaldi, Dame Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson, Victoria de los Ángeles, Régine Crespin, Frederica von Stade, Sir Peter Pears, Carlo Bergonzi, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

Gammond also interviewed and wrote about a number of eminent conductors, including Sir Malcolm Sargent, Leonard Bernstein, Antal Doráti, Josef Krips, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti, Richard Bonynge and Sir Neville Marriner. Sir Yehudi Menuhin provided the preface to Gammond's The Meaning and Magic of Music, [13] and he counted among his friends Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré. Through his writing on jazz, Gammond met Duke Ellington [14] and had extensive contact with André Previn.

Other activities

Gammond gave talks for several recorded music societies, many of which he served as president, including the Sunbury Music Club, which was based in Upper Halliford until its disbandment in 2015. He was a long-standing and frequent contributor to The Friends of Torbay's annual 'Torbay Musical Weekend' at the Palace Hotel, Torquay since its inauguration in 1970 until 2007; he was appointed its Vice-President in 2009 and served as President from 2014. It was at Gammond's invitation that musical luminaries such as Georg Solti addressed these gatherings.

In 1964, Gammond founded an informal music group which to this day meets on the first Tuesday of each month in members' houses. [15] Taking place in the environs of Shepperton, Sunbury-on-Thames, Walton-on-Thames, Chertsey, Weybridge, and Woking, the meetings explore the musical repertoire through recordings and live performances.

Gammond was a member of Rotary International since 1962 and was President of the Shepperton Rotary Club from 1969 to 1970. He was much involved in local charitable work and in 1990 helped to found 'Care in Shepperton', a group of volunteers which offers neighbourly help and support to the indisposed, elderly and housebound; he served as its chairman from 1991 to 1996.

Select bibliography

Contributions to:

Films and scripts

Select broadcasts

Related Research Articles

John Betjeman English poet, writer and broadcaster

Sir John Betjeman was an English poet, writer, and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack". He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1972 until his death.

BBC Radio 3 British national radio station

BBC Radio 3 is a British radio station operated by the BBC. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature. The station describes itself as 'the world's most significant commissioner of new music', and through its New Generation Artists scheme promotes young musicians of all nationalities. The station broadcasts the BBC Proms concerts, live and in full, each summer in addition to performances by the BBC Orchestras and Singers. There are regular productions of both classic plays and newly commissioned drama.

Donald Swann British composer

Donald Ibrahím Swann was a Welsh-born composer, musician, singer and entertainer. He was one half of Flanders and Swann, writing and performing comic songs with Michael Flanders.

Peter Maxwell Davies English composer and conductor

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was an English composer and conductor. In 2004 he was made Master of the Queen's Music.

Sir Richard Henry Simpson Stilgoe is a British songwriter, lyricist and musician, and broadcaster who is best known for his humorous songs and frequent television appearances. His output includes collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Peter Skellern. He is also a keen puzzler who has hosted several quiz shows and authored several books on the subject.

Geraint Evans Welsh opera singer

Sir Geraint Llewellyn Evans was a Welsh bass-baritone noted for operatic roles including Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, and the title roles in Falstaff and Wozzeck. He sang more than 70 different roles in a career that lasted from his first appearance at Covent Garden in 1948 to his farewell there in 1984.

Michael David Kenneth Read is an English radio DJ, writer, journalist and television presenter. Read has been a broadcaster for more than 40 years, and is best known for his association as a DJ with Radio 1, and as host of the 1980s Saturday morning children's show Saturday Superstore and the 1980s music panel game Pop Quiz.

Herbie Flowers English musician

Brian Keith "Herbie" Flowers is an English musician specialising in electric bass, double bass and tuba. He is noted as a member of Blue Mink, T. Rex and Sky and as one of Britain's best-known session bass players, having contributed to recordings by Elton John, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Melanie, Roy Harper (Bullinamingvase), David Essex, Allan Clarke, Al Kooper, Bryan Ferry, Harry Nilsson, Cat Stevens, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. He also played bass on Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. By the end of the 1970s, Flowers had played bass on an estimated 500 hit recordings.

Ballad opera opera genre

The ballad opera is a genre of English stage entertainment that originated in the early 18th century, and continued to develop over the following century and later. Like the earlier comédie en vaudeville and the later Singspiel, its distinguishing characteristic is the use of tunes in a popular style with spoken dialogue. These English plays were 'operas' mainly insofar as they satirized the conventions of the imported opera seria. Music critic Peter Gammond describes the ballad opera as "an important step in the emancipation of both the musical stage and the popular song."

Symphony No. 88 in G major was written by Joseph Haydn, for the orchestra of Esterháza.

Oxford University Jazz Society

The Oxford University Jazz Society, also known as JazzSoc, is the focus of jazz music at the University of Oxford, England. Formerly known as the Oxford University Jazz Club, the society now provides the main arena for student players to interact musically, whilst also encouraging a non-student contingent.

Stephen Russell Race OBE was a British composer, pianist and radio and television presenter.

Peter James Clayton was an English jazz presenter on BBC radio, jazz critic, and author. From October 1968 until his death in August 1991, Clayton presented jazz recordings, interviews, studio performances, and live performances on BBC Radio 1, 2, and 3, as well as the BBC World Service. He co-authored several books about music and jazz with Peter Gammond and was a frequent contributor to jazz magazines.

Francis Coleman was a conductor and television producer and director.

Christopher Webber English actor

Christopher Webber is an English actor, dramatist, theatre director, writer and music critic.

Christopher Headington was an English composer, musicologist, and pianist.

Alexander Faris Irish composer, conductor and writer

Samuel Alexander "Sandy" Faris was a Northern Irish composer, conductor and writer, known for his television theme tunes, including the theme music for the 1970s TV series Upstairs, Downstairs. He composed and recorded many operas and musicals, and also composed film scores and orchestral works. As a conductor, he was especially known for his revivals of Jacques Offenbach and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

Alun Morgan was a British jazz critic and writer.


  1. A photograph by Jane Bown.
  2. At 43 Moss Road.
  3. Gammond was a member of the Teddy Tail League from 1933.
  4. A later operetta by Gammond is The Good Soldier Schweik, based on the satirical novel by Jaroslav Hašek.
  5. Obituary, The Times, 1 June 2019, p. 76; Obituary, The Guardian, The film that constituted the eulogy to Gammond at his funeral is at
  6. 'Call My Bluff', The Times, 1 June 2019, p. 29.
  7. Marriner's award was the first to be conferred on an individual, rather than to a recording.
  8. E.g. BBC Radio 2, 16 March 1985, 8.20 pm.
  9. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 27 June 1970, 11.30 am.
  10. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 22 February 1975, 9.5 am.
  11. A selection of his poems is published in The Day I Met Myself (2014).
  12. See his One Man's Music (London, 1971), p. 155.
  13. Feltham, 1968.
  14. One Man's Music, p. 144.
  15. Gammond's Schubert (London, 1982) is dedicated to this group, which he refers to as the 'Shepperton Music Circle'.