Obituary: David Cox

Anyone who has ever tuned in to hear the news on the BBC World Service over the past 30 years will have become familiar with the lively, foot-tapping arrangement of "Lillibulero" which has so reassuringly introduced the programme on the hour. Its arranger was David Cox, for many years a gentle and most popular figure in the corridors of the BBC.

All his life a man of Kent, he was born in Broadstairs and except for his early years, when the family lived in Australia, and a short time in London after the death of his first wife, he was devoted to his homes first in Dunton Green, then Magpie Bottom and latterly at Pratt's Bottom, all in the Orpington and Sevenoaks area. On returning to England from Australia in 1935 he entered the Royal College of Music, where his composition teachers were Ralph Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells, with another composer, Arthur Benjamin, for piano, from 1937 to 1939. At the same time he was an organ scholar at Worcester College, Oxford, until 1940, serving also as assistant organist at Christ Church Cathedral. His war service was with the RAF from 1941 to 1945, when he also played the clarinet in the RAF Band.

After the war Cox joined the BBC, where he was to remain until his retirement in 1976. His first appointment was as a music producer and with the World Service, where he started with the Latin American services. From there he went to the Third Programme before returning to Bush House in l956 to become music organiser for the overseas services for the rest of his career.

On his retirement his association with the BBC continued until 1989 as a valuable member of the Audition Panel, listening anonymously to would-be young broadcasters, as well as being a member of the larger group of prestigious musicians who gave their time as members of the outside Listening Panel, independently reporting on the standards of first broadcasts of artists. Both of these tasks he took very seriously and reported with perception and fairness.

The music of Peter Warlock was particularly dear to David Cox and gives a clue to his own compositional style. This is heard to its best in his Three Songs from John Donne of 1959 and the Five Songs after John Milton of 1975. In addition to his arrangements and signature tunes, his best known orchestral work is the overture London Calling which he wrote for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the BBC External Sorvices and first performed in 1982, in which he incorporated not only "Lillibulero" but other themes associated with the service.

Choral works also feature in his output, many of them festival commissions. Among these are the Cantata of Beasts (1957), Songs of Earth and Air, on texts of Dryden (1960) and A Greek Cantata (1967). In 1969 his one opera, The Children in the Forest, used his own libretto adapted from the Arthur Ransome story and was written for the Cookham Festival. A number of attractive piano works and music for recorder and piano make up his principal instrumental works.

The Henry Wood Proms (1980) and Debussy Orchestral Music (1974) will remain his main books but his contributions to the study of the music of Warlock should not be forgotten, notably in Peter Warlock: a centenary celebration (1994) which he compiled and edited with John Bishop. He was a regular contributor to musical periodicals and wrote a number of articles for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980).

His particular musical interests were for English music of the 20th century, with French music coming a close second. After his retirement he considered writing a philosophical study on the essence and meaning of music but this never progressed beyond long and fascinating discussions on the topic with his musical friends and colleagues. He also wrote a novel, based in Yugoslavia, which remains unpublished.

David Cox was a good friend in the best sense of the term. His quiet, sincere manner and occasional hesitancy in conversation concealed a sharp, searching and perceptive mind. A fine linguist and fascinating conversationalist, his gently dry humour matched a remarkable patience occasionally disturbed only by some of the more extremes of modern music or the later trends in music broadcasting.

David Vassall Cox, composer: born Broadstairs, Kent 4 February 1916; married 1954 Barbara Butche r (died 1982; one son, two daughters), 1992 Sybil Bell; died Pratt's Bottom 31 January 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us