Music composer Ernest dies at 90

Ernest Tomlinson  has died at the age of 90
Ernest Tomlinson has died at the age of 90

International composer and music conservationist Ernest Tomlinson has died at the age of 90.

Frail for several years now, his family announced the news from his Longridge home on June 12 as ‘the end of an era.’

However his daughter Hilary Ashton said his long legacy of music continues in his gifted grandchildren and great grandchildren, and in the national Library of Light Orchestral Music which he founded in 1984.

Housed at the family farmhouse just outside Longridge, it contains around 50,000 pieces including many items that would have been lost had he not rescued them.

Several were performed at last September’s concert by the Light Music Orchestra, conducted in a packed Longridge Civic Hall by his friend Gavin Sutherland to celebrate Ernest Tomlinson’s 90th birthday.

He became chairman of the Light Music Society in 1966, a position he held until 2009 when he was unanimously elected president.

New chairman Mr Sutherland will once again conduct the society’s traditional celebration concert in Longridge on Sunday August 30 at the Civic Hall.

“We will be playing quite a few of Dad’s pieces then,” Hilary confirmed.

Many items of Ernest’s music have been played on Classic FM, which featured warm tributes from presenters Caroline Bott and Iain Sutherland.

He was born in Lancashire in 1924.

His father, Fred, was a keen amateur singer who founded and conducted the Rossendale Male Voice Choir. In 1933 Ernest won a chorister scholarship to the Manchester Cathedral Choir School.

At 16 he won a scholarship to study composition at Manchester University, and organ, piano and clarinet at the Royal Manchester College of Music.

He saw active service in the RAF as part of a mobile signals unit at a joint US Airforce and RAF aerodrome at Juvincourt, France, from 1944 to 45. He resumed his studies after demobilisation and graduated in 1947.

He then moved to London, having obtained an organist’s job at a Mayfair church and a post as music copyist for a firm of arrangers and music publishers.

In 1948 he was taken on as staff arranger and arranged hundreds of scores for a wide variety of artists, orchestras and bands, for radio, television, recording and the stage.

Ernest married his childhood sweetheart, Jean Lancaster from Longridge in 1949.

His first symphony, Sinfonia ’62, won him a million lire prize (the equivalent of about nine months’ income in 1962) for the best symphonic jazz work, and resulted in other symphonic jazz commissions.

He twice won Ivor Novello awards, one for dances from his ballet Aladdin, and a Composers’ Guild Award.

In 1968 he returned north to live in his wife’s family home in Longridge.

He took over as conductor of the Rossendale Male Voice Choir from his father from 1976 to 1981.

Ernest continued working on his own compositions until in his late 80s and in 2012 he received an MBE from the Queen for services to music.