William Kinghorn F Leeds CM, FTCL, LTCL, ARCM.

William Kinghorn was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne UK in 1935. His musical talent emerged quite late and only when he moved to his second school at the age of eleven. He had bought himself a small plastic flute and so impressed his school friends with his dexterity that one of them brought this to the attention of the music master. Immediately he was given a recorder, an instrument upon which he became a virtuoso performer. As a young teenager he was invited to take part in a performance of Bach’s St. Mathew Passion given by the Newcastle Bach Choir. This was his first contact with the music of Bach and an experience he would never forget. It was at this time that he asked to be given piano lessons.

In 1953 he began a teacher training course at St. John’s Collage in York. During his time there he became very involved with the musical activities, writing music for a production of King Lear and founding a recorder consort rather grandly called “The York Tudor Players”. It was as a student that he was invited in 1953 to compose the music for a performance of “Noah’s Flood” as part of the York Festival. One performance, which took place on a travelling cart, was staged outside York Minster. As the crowd dispersed two figures emerged and approached William. “Did you write those variations?” asked the first. “Yes sir” replied William. “Very good, very good”, was the response. The two figures were Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears who were taking part in the Festival with the English Opera Group.

On his return to Newcastle to take up a teaching post he was introduced to the composer David Barlow, a lecturer at Newcastle University. David had been a pupil of Nadia Boulanger and showed her some of his work urging William to study with her. Although Nadia agreed to accept him as a pupil, professional and financial constraints prevented this.

After moving to Yorkshire in the mid 1960’s William eventually became a senior lecturer in Harmony and Composition at Leeds College of Music, a post he held until his retirement in 1995.

Kinghorn’s music is very distinctive in his use of harmony and particularly rhythm. His language is tonal but very personal in its use of mixed modality and chromatic elements. His rhythmic language makes extensive use of irregular structures which, although sometimes presenting initial difficulties for performers (and conductors), once mastered reveal a natural flow comparable to speech rhythms. In the words of a fellow composer, “He has his own voice”.

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