John Gardner (composer)

English composer (1917-2011)

John Linton Gardner, (born Manchester, 2 March 1917; died Liss, Hampshire, 12 December 2011) was an English composer of classical music. He is particularly remembered for his church music, especially for his setting of the carol Tomorrow shall be my dancing day.

Early life and educationEdit

Gardner was born in Manchester, England and brought up in Ilfracombe, North Devon. His father was a doctor and amateur composer who was killed while fighting at the end of the First World War.

Gardner went to school at Eagle House and Wellington College and studied at Exeter College, Oxford. He enjoyed jazz, but concentrated on classical music and soon started to compose. An Intermezzo for Organ was published by Oxford University Press in 1936. In the same year he got an organ scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford. He got to know the composer Arthur Benjamin and dedicated his Rhapsody for Oboe and String Quartet (1935) to him. At Oxford he became friendly with Theodor Adorno with whom he played piano duets.


Gardner went to Repton School to teach music, but after two terms World War II started and he joined the RAF. He conducted the RAF band and played the piano for the dance band. He enjoyed playing jazz and started a swing band. Later in the war he was a navigator in the fighting.

After the war Gardner got a job as repetiteur at the Royal Opera House. He rejected all the music he had composed (although he did not throw it away) and started again by calling his next piece his opus 1. His First Symphony was numbered opus 2. It was a mature work and made him famous. He resigned from his job at the opera house and he had time to concentrate on composing. He wrote Cantiones Sacrae for the Three Choirs Festival in 1952 and an opera The Moon and Sixpence which was performed at Sadler’s Well in 1957.

In 1956 he was invited by Thomas Armstrong to teach at the Royal Academy of Music. For 30 years he was professor of harmony and counterpoint there. A few years later he also had a part-time job as Director of Music at St Paul's Girls' School in London, where Gustav Holst and Herbert Howells had taught.

Gardner wrote a lot of music for his pupils and also worked on holiday programs. He composed a total of about 300 works. The carol Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day is particularly famous. It has a lively rhythm with time signatures that keep changing.


He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1976.

Personal lifeEdit

He married in 1955 and had one son and two daughters.

Other websites and referencesEdit