Ernest Bristow Farrar (7 July 1885 – 18 September 1918) was an English composer, pianist and organist.
Ernest Farrar was born in Lewisham, London. The son of a clergyman, he was educated at Leeds Grammar School, where he began organ studies and in May 1905 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. There he studied with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Sir Walter Parratt and began a friendship with Frank Bridge. He also took up several posts as organist in Dresden, South Shields and Christ Church, High Harrogate. At Harrogate, he worked closely with local conductor Julian Clifford and took on the 14 year-old Gerald Finzi as a composition pupil. In 1913, he married Olive Mason in South Shields. His best man at the wedding was Ernest Bullock.
His career was cut short by the outbreak of World War I, as he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards in 1915 and joined the regiment in August 1916. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment on 27 February 1918.
His grave lies just outside the churchyard wall in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery Extension, in a corner under a few trees. A Requiem Mass was said at Micklefield, on 29 September, the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. A concert was dedicated to his memory at Harrogate by Julian Clifford on 17 September 1919, including a tone-poem Lights Out written expressly for Farrar, and Farrar's work Variations in G for pianoforte and orchestra on an old British sea-song.
Works and legacy
Despite his short life, Farrar wrote a large body of music for orchestra, voices and organ. His works include The Blessed Damozel, the Celtic Suite and his song cycle Vagabond Songs. Two orchestral pieces, the suite English Pastoral Impressions and the Three Spiritual Studies (for string orchestra) were published posthumously under the Carnegie Collection of British Music imprint. However, apart from a few songs his works are now rarely performed. Stephen Banfield has identified several characteristic traits in Farrar's music, representative of the English pre-war era: the use of folksong (English Pastoral Impressions); "muscular" settings of Walt Whitman (in the choral suite Out of Doors, op. 14); and intimate lyricism (in Margaritae sorori, a choral setting of words by W E Henley from 1916)..
Today, Farrar is perhaps best known as the teacher of Gerald Finzi, who was deeply affected by Farrar's death. Frank Bridge was also deeply affected, and dedicated his Piano Sonata to the memory of Farrar.
- Behind the Lines: the music and composers of the first world war
- McVeagh, Diana. Gerald Finzi: His Life and Music (2010), p 9, 14-15
- "Charles Harford Lloyd". The Musical Times. 60 (921): 621–622. 1919. doi:10.2307/3701590. JSTOR 3701590. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
- Banfield, Stephen. 'Farrar, Ernest Bristow', in Grove Music Online
- Farrar: Orchestral Music, Chandos 9586 (1997)
- War's Embers, Hyperion CDH55237 (1987)
- Jenner, Dr Simon. Composers, Trauma and The First World War: the sprouted poppy-rooted veins of British pastoral music (2014)