Papers of composer Cecil Armstrong Gibbs

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

A collection of papers and music manuscripts of the composer Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960).

The collection encompasses the majority of Gibbs's music manuscripts, including his songs, choral, dramatic, orchestral, chamber and instrumental works, as well as a book of juvenile manuscripts. There are also some published editions of Gibbs's works.

The papers also include letters to Gibbs, 1918-1960, from various composers, writers, artists and other figures, including Walter de la Mare, Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams. There are papers relating to 'Crossings' (a play by Walter de la Mare with incidental music by Gibbs) including music cues, song texts, a 1924 printed score with manuscript annotations, the play script with manuscript annotations, programme for the performance at Wick School 1919, an account by Gibbs describing the composition and first performance of the work, and a script of Crossings freely adapted for broadcasting by David Davis 1950.

Gibbs's 244 page unpublished autobiography entitled 'Common Time', 1958, is also held; this is typescript with annotations and corrections.

The collection also comprises manuscript texts of lectures by Gibbs, primarily on aspects of music and the history of music. The titles include; An historical retrospect, Leisure and the fine arts, The place of the festival movement in our national life, Some aspects and experiences of music in the theatre, Music as affected by social and political conditions, Modern music, Ancient and modern, Music in education, Music teaching and the modern world, The evolution of music, Musical radiolocation, Choral societies and The choir as a creative activity. There are also lectures concerning religion and episodes from Gibbs's own life, and a speech given at Appleby Grammar School prize giving day.

There are two printed lectures by Gibbs, 'Competition or non-competition?' given at Hastings Music Festival, and 'The trend of modern music' given at the Royal institution of Great Britain meeting on 25 Mar 1938 (from Proc. Roy. Inst. Vol.XXX, No.141.1938), as well as a copy of his publication 'The Festival Movement', London, 1946.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gibbs read history and music at Trinity College, Cambridge where he received help and tuition from Edward Dent and Charles Wood. He taught at the Wick School, Hove, from 1915 and commissioned Walter de la Mare to write a play, Crossings, for the school in 1919. This production, stage-managed by Dent, brought Gibbs into personal contact with de la Mare, who was to become his lifelong friend and inspiration. Adrian Boult conducted Gibbs's music for the play and was so impressed that he offered Gibbs the financial backing to enable him to take up composition professionally. Consequently he studied for a year at the Royal College of Music with Vaughan Williams for composition, Charles Wood for theory and Boult for score-reading and conducting. Gibbs subsequently served on the staff of the RCM from 1921 to 1939.

Gibbs actively and enthusiastically pursued a career as a music festival adjudicator from 1923 to 1952, and he held office as vice-president of the British Federation of Music Fesivals from 1937 to 1952. He published a wealth of music for choirs and amateur orchestras, as well as a substantial output of songs.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation. Please email enquiries@brittenpears.org to arrange an appointment to visit the reading room or for further queries.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has not been fully catalogued however a list has been prepared by Michael Pilkington. There is also a box list of the letters to Gibbs and the manuscript music.

Custodial History

Gibbs's daughter gave the letters to the Britten-Pears Foundation in November 1983 and the autobiography in December 1983. Some manuscript music was deposited by Boosey and Hawkes on 14 Nov 2001 (acc no. 6904) and 12 Oct 2006 (acc no. 8101), to be held with the Gibbs manuscripts already held at the Foundation. A further accession was made on 27 Jul 2007 (acc 8290).