Parratt, Sir Walter



The most prominent organist in England at the present time. Born at Huddersfield, Yorkshire. His father, Thomas Parratt, was the first organist and professor of music at Huddersfield, and held the organship of the Parish Church from 1812, when the organ was built, until his death. Walter very early showed his musical taste, and was so thoroughly grounded by his father that at seven years of age he played at church, and at ten could play from memory Bach's Welltempered Clavier. The next year he received his first appointment, succeeding his brother at the Armitage Bridge Church, and when twelve was organist of St. Peter's Chapel, Pimlico, where he lived in the choir school. Later on he took organ lessons from George Cooper at Holborn, and once played a service at St. Paul's Cathedral. After   his return from London he again succeeded his brother, this time at St. Paul's Church, Huddersfield, in 1854, and for seven years he was kept busy with concerts and opening organs beside his regular duties. In 1861 he was appointed organist to Lord Dudley at Witley Court, Worcestershire. He married Miss Gledhill, of Huddersfield, in 1864, and until 1868 they lived a quiet country life at Witley. He then obtained the vacancy in the Parish Church at Wigan, and after officiating as organist and conductor of the Wigan Church Choral Association for five years he became organist, in 1872, at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he took the degree of Bachelor of Music the following year. For ten years he served as organist and choirmaster of that and other Oxford Colleges, directed a number of musical societies and lectured. He then became organist of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, the highest organship in England. Other honors quickly followed: He was appointed professor of organ and director of the choral class of the Royal College of Music in London, in 1883, a post which he still retains; was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1892; in 1893 appointed master of music and private organist to Her Majesty, and he continues to act in the same capacity under King Edward VII. His home is at The Cloisters, Windsor Castle. Aside from his official duties he conducts the Madrigal Society and various other societies at Windsor, gives recitals and opens new organs. He was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by Oxford in 1894; is Past Grand Organist of the Free Masons; a member of the Royal Victorian Order, and is connected with many other societies. He is an organist of rare ability, and has formed many pupils now in prominent positions. His compositions include music for Eschylus' Agamemnon, and The Story of Orestes; besides anthems; pieces for the organ, and the piano, on which he is an excellent performer; and songs, one of which is in the volume of Choral Songs, dedicated to Queen Victoria, which he edited in 1899. He also wrote the chapter on music in Mr. Humphry Ward's reign of Queen Victoria, published in 1887.