William Reed

Composer inspired by Moral Re-Armament
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The Independent Online

William Leonard Reed, composer, orchestrator and arranger: born London 16 October 1910; died London 15 April 2002.

The composer William Reed was associated over many years with the Westminster Theatre, Moral Re- Armament's London showcase, but he was also an energetic anthologist, compiling The Golden Book of Carols (1948), The Treasury of Christmas Music (1950), The Second Treasury of Christmas Music (1967) and two multi-volume works, The Treasury of English Church Music (1965, of which, with his fellow general editor, Gerald H. Knight, he edited the last two volumes, 1760-1965) and The Treasury of Vocal Music (with Eric Smith, 1969).

Born in 1910, Reed had won the John Owen Osgood chamber music prize at Oxford in 1934 while on a Classics Exhibition at Jesus College. Though not at that time a music student, he was interviewed by the Professor of Music, Sir Hugh Allen, who encouraged him to apply for a scholarship at the Royal College of Music. There he studied composition under Herbert Howells and conducting under Constant Lambert, winning the Cobbett Prize. From 1937 he spent two years in Scandinavia as a lecturer for the British Council. He was awarded his doctorate in music at Oxford in 1939.

During the Second World War Reed served in the London Fire Brigade. He also began composing for patriotic revues put on by Moral Re-Armament, the first being Giant Otherfellow. While still an undergraduate he had been introduced to the work of the Oxford Group (which became known as MRA from 1938) by fellow students he had known at Dulwich College. MRA's founder, Frank Buchman, remained a lifelong inspiration to him.

After the war Reed travelled to America at Buchman's invitation and helped to train the famous Mackinac Singers. He also composed for more ambitious musical shows, which toured widely, The Good Road (1947), The Vanishing Island (1955) and The Crowning Experience (1957) – two years later made into a film, starring the African-American mezzo Muriel Smith.

In 1966 Reed was appointed Director of Music at the newly enlarged Westminster Theatre Arts Centre. There he arranged a popular series of Sunday concerts given by such artists as Joseph Cooper, Eric Fenby, Imogen Holst, John Lill, Peter Katin and the Amici String Quartet. In 1968 he also arranged a series of concerts at the Purcell Room on the South Bank when the Canadian pianist Raymond Dudley played Haydn's complete piano sonatas.

While at the Westminster Theatre centre it was natural for Reed to continue to compose for the musical stage. He wrote the music for Annie (1967), High Diplomacy (1969) and Love All (1978), which were all performed at the Westminster.

When, in 1973, the Westminster Theatre was again redeveloped, Reed began lecturing on music for the Workers' Educational Association, from which he only retired in 1997. During this period he gave great encouragement to many young musicians who much appreciated his support and friendship. They included the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, the concert pianists Penelope Thwaites and Mark Fitzgerald and the organist and conductor Noel Tredinnick.

Will Reed's 80th birthday was celebrated in 1990 with a concert at the Blackheath Concert Hall and by broadcasts of his work on BBC Radio 3, which also commemorated his 90th birthday.

For some 30 years he had been involved with successive revisions of the book National Anthems of the World, first published in 1960. With M.J. Bristow, he edited the last, ninth, edition in 1997, featuring the national anthems of more than 190 countries, with scores, original-language and "transliterate" phonetic texts. A new edition is forthcoming shortly.

Hugh Williams