45 years after his death, the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) has just published the
first biography of Sir William Harris, or ‘DocH’ as he was known to his choristers. Organist
of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle for 28 years from 1933, he was also music
teacher to the Royal Family and played the organ for many high-profile occasions, especially
Order of the Garter ceremonies, two Coronation services and a number of State funerals.
Whilst not setting out to be an academic treatise, the authors have taken the opportunity
in the first part of the book to examine the career of an essentially humble man who spent
his life wholly in the service of the church, leaving a lasting legacy of inspired and wellcrafted
music in his wake. The second part of the book is a catalogue resource of his 315
compositions, with musical examples, of both Harris’s published music and unpublished
With the help of Harris’s family descendants, John Henderson and Trevor Jarvis, the RSCM’s Honorary
Librarian and Honorary Assistant Librarian respectively, have assembled the life story of a very private man
from his humble background through his early training at St. Davids Cathedral and the Royal College of Music;
and then through a successful career at the cathedral in Lichfield and at New College and Christ Church in
Oxford before appointment to Windsor. He was also Director of Studies at the RSCM from 1956 until
retirement in 1961 at the age of 78.
His life story reveals contact with many of the great names of 20th century British musical life including
Stanford, Parry, Parratt, Walford Davies, Vaughan Williams, Henry Ley and scholar Canon Edmund Fellowes.
In a Foreword Dr Roy Massey MBE, Organist Emeritus of Hereford Cathedral, writes: “Sir William Harris was
undoubtedly one of the greatest cathedral musicians of his generation and John Henderson and Trevor Jarvis
cover both his life, professional appointments and his eclectic gifts as organist, choirtrainer, conductor,
composer and teacher in affectionate detail.”