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Sir Malcolm Sargent

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Biography

Sargent was born in Bath Villas, Ashford in Kent England to a working-class, but musical family. He was brought up in Stamford, Lincolnshire where he won a scholarship to Stamford School. At the age of fourteen, he accompanied rehearsals for an amateur production of The Gondoliers at Stamford. He earned his diploma from the Royal College of Organists at age sixteen.

After a brief service in the army, Sargent worked first as an organist at Melton Mowbray Parish Church, Leicestershire. At the same time, he worked on many musical projects in Leicester, where he not only conducted but also produced Gilbert and Sullivan and other operas for the amateur societies. Sargent’s break came when Sir Henry Wood visited De Montfort Hall, Leicester, early in 1921 with the Queen’s Hall orchestra. He commissioned Sargent (as it was customary to commission a piece from a local composer) to write a piece Impression on a Windy Day.

Sargent soon abandoned composition in favor of conducting, on the advice of Wood, among others. He founded the Leicester Symphony Orchestra, an amateur orchestra, in 1922 and became a lecturer at the Royal College of Music, in London, in 1923. He quickly developed a reputation as an excellent conductor of large choral groups, and he was reportedly associated at one time or another with every major British choral society.

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