James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker Samuel Beckett Sam Hanna Bell William Carleton John Hewitt Rosamond Praegar Bernard (Barney) Hughes

Howard Ferguson (1908 - 1999):
Composer and musicologist


Howard Ferguson was born in Belfast, the youngest of five children of Stanley Ferguson, the managing director of the Ulster Bank, and his wife Frances. The family home was at Deramore Park South. His parents were not particularly musical but at the age of six his nascent musical ability was spotted by Frederick J Sawyer (organist of Elmwood Presbyterian Church) with whom he began piano lessons travelling once a week by train to Belfast from Rockport School where he was a boarder. At the age of 13 he won a prize at the Belfast Musical Festival and so impressed the adjudicator Harold Samuel that he was offered the chance to move to London and study with Samuel, recognised as one of the best teachers of the time. Thereafter Ferguson spent most of his life in England and having completed his schooling at Westminster School he entered the Royal College of Music where Ralph Vaughan Williams was his composition teacher. Although he had a number of early compositions published he realised that he would never be a prolific composer and developed a second career as a chamber musician. During the Second World War he served as a musician in the RAF and he was active in organising the celebrated series of concerts at the National Gallery in London promoted by Dame Myra Hess.

After the war he taught composition at the Royal Academy of Music and produced a number of compositions which were premiered at the Three Choirs Festival, but in 1959 he declared that he would compose no more. Thereafter he concentrated on the production of critical editions of the works of others, including an edition of the complete piano works of Franz Schubert. Ferguson also prepared many of the editions of piano music for the examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. It is probable that anyone who has sat an examination of the ABRSM in the last forty years will have encountered one of Ferguson's editions. He also provided much help and encouragement to the English composer Gerald Finzi.

Among Ferguson's frequently performed works is Overture for an Occasion which he was commissioned to write for the coronation of HM the Queen in 1953. In 1959 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Queen's University and in 1973 was given honorary membership of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

He lived the remainder of his life in Cambridge and died there on 1 November 1999.



Born: 21 October 1908
Died: 01 November 1999
Wesley McCann