© National Portrait Gallery

Born: Feb­ru­a­ry 1, 1877, Hamp­stead, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Died: March 13, 1946, Scun­thorpe, Lin­colns­hire, Eng­land.

Buried: St Bar­tho­lo­mew’s Church, Ap­ple­by, Lin­coln­shire, Eng­land.


Dunhill was a gift­ed pi­a­no stu­dent, and a child­hood en­thu­si­ast for the light op­er­as of Gil­bert & Sullivan, whose work he em­u­lat­ed by com­pos­ing a num­ber of small op­er­et­tas in his teens.

In 1893, he en­rolled at the Roy­al Col­lege of Mu­sic (RCM), stu­dy­ing pi­a­no­for­te un­der Frank­lin Tay­lor, and com­po­si­tion un­der Charles Stan­ford. His con­tem­po­ra­ries in­clud­ed Ralph Vaugh­an Will­iams, Gus­tav Holst, and John Ire­land, who re­mained a life­long friend. He won an op­en schol­ar­ship for com­po­si­tion in 1897.

Dunhill was a mu­sic-mas­ter at Eton Col­lege for se­ver­al years be­fore be­com­ing a pro­fess­or at the RCM in 1905.

From 1907–19 he gave con­certs of cham­ber mu­sic in Lon­don. He him­self wrote cham­ber music and al­so songs and song-cy­cles. His song-cycle The Wind Among the Reeds, for ten­or voice and or­ches­tra, was first pe­rformed by Ger­vase El­wes with the Roy­al Phil­har­mo­nic Orc­hes­tra at Queen’s Hall in 1912.

His set­ting of Will­iam But­ler Yeats’ The Cloths of Hea­ven is well known. El­wes (with Fred­er­ick B. Kid­dle) re­cord­ed his song A Sea Dirge, a set­ting of Shakes­peare’s lyr­ic Full fath­om five.

In July 1918, Dun­hill chaired the meet­ing of Di­rect­ors of the Roy­al Phil­har­mo­nic So­ci­e­ty which set out to re­claim de­mo­cra­tic con­trol of the So­ci­e­ty’s af­fairs when, dur­ing World War I, they had large­ly fall­en under the sin­gle, if high­ly be­ne­vo­lent, con­trol of Tho­mas Beech­am and his se­cre­ta­ry Don­ald Bay­lis.

Dunhill gave a con­cert of mu­sic by Bri­tish com­posers in Bel­grade in 1922, which in­cluded his own Sym­pho­ny in A mi­nor com­posed dur­ing the war, and in 1924 con­trib­ut­ed Ser­bi­an ar­ti­cles to the Dent Mu­sic­al Dic­tion­a­ry.

After the war, Dun­hill’s work shift­ed from or­ches­tral and cham­ber mu­sic to­ward light op­e­ra and oth­er genres. In 1931, his light op­e­ra Tan­ti­vy Tow­ers was a con­sid­er­a­ble suc­cess in Lon­don, and a suite of ball­et move­ments, Gall­i­mau­fry, was per­formed in Ham­burg in 1937.

During the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote ma­ny small piec­es for pi­a­no, for mu­si­cians to play at home, ma­ny of which were pub­lished. Some of his el­e­ment­a­ry piec­es are still used by the As­so­ci­at­ed Board (ABRSM) for ex­am­in­a­tions. Dun­hill had from 1906 been a sen­ior ex­am­in­er for the ABRSM, tak­ing him ov­er­seas on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions.

Dunhill led a bu­sy life as an ad­min­is­trat­or, in ad­di­tion to his work as a com­pos­er, teach­er and ex­am­ine­r. He ad­ju­di­cat­ed at se­ver­al re­gion­al mu­sic fes­ti­vals, lec­tured and oc­ca­sion­al­ly broad­cast on the BBC. In the ear­ly 1940s, he com­posed a num­ber of suites for wind in­stru­ments, which con­tin­ue to be po­pu­lar.

In 1914, Dun­hill mar­ried Mol­ly Ar­nold, a great-grand-daugh­ter of Tho­mas Ar­nold of Rugby. She died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis in 1929. They had three child­ren. (One of his sons, Da­vid Dunhill (1917–2005), was a BBC ra­dio an­nounc­er for ma­ny years.) In 1942, he mar­ried Is­o­bel Fea­ton­by; they both be­came mu­sic teach­ers at Eton Col­lege in World War II.