Arthur Wills, OBE, DMus, FRCO(CHM) (1926-2020)

Arthur Wills, OBE, DMus, FRCO(CHM) (1926-2020)


The College is saddened to learn of the death of Dr Arthur Wills on 30th October at the age of 94.

Arthur Wills gained his ARCO in 1947, and his FRCO in the following year, with the CHM shortly after that. From 1958 to 1990 he was Director of Music at Ely Cathedral. He also held a Professorship at the Royal Academy of Music from 1964 to 1992, and held the ADCM (the RSCM’s Archbishop’s Diploma in Church Music).

He was born in Coventry, singing in the local church choir where he gained some experience on the organ, and taking piano lessons. He left school at the age of 14 to work in a piano workshop: at weekends he visited the great cathedrals and talked his way into the organ loft. He caught up on his musical education by taking the Durham BMus along with his FRCO, and spent a year at the College of St Nicholas, Canterbury, before moving to Ely in 1949 as Assistant Organist to Sidney Campbell.

More than many organists of his generation, he was a composer of music for organ and choir, putting Ely on the map for church music, and making it a popular venue for broadcast services. His compositions extended to secular choral music, and an opera based on George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Wills toured extensively as a recitalist in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and made many recordings, both as a soloist and with Ely Cathedral Choir.

Arthur Wills was a long-standing RCO Council member and also an examiner. He was appointed OBE in 1990.

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