Gordon Dale

(1935 - 2001 )

Gordon was born in Wrexham and began his musical activities at an early age. By the time he was 11, several of his piano pieces had been broadcast on B.B.C. Children's Hour programmes. Besides piano, he also studied violin (Sylvia Cleaver), woodwind (Michael Krein) and conducting (Douglas Guest). He was musical director of the Handel Orchestra and also conducted the Jacques Orchestra as well as playing violin professionally. He moved into teaching which prompted his interest in writing music for his pupils and at age 33 became Britain's youngest music adviser in Dorset. Latterly he has

concentrated on composing and still taught a few pupils until recently. His increasing problems with arthritis forced him to give up performing. He last conducted in the late1980s when he conducted several first performances of his works with the Staffordshire Chamber Orchestra. In 1999 Gordon suffered a serious stroke and was in a nursing home in Hereford where he still took a keen interest in all things musical - and cricket.

Gordon's music is always melodic and sensitively written for the instruments or voices and its apparant simplicity often masks subtleties of timbre which only emerge in performance. He never specified metronome speeds reasoning that a musician will know when a speed is right for the music.

Gordon's published works are to be found almost exclusively in Piper Publications' catalogue and include instrumental solos, duets, trios, quartets and works for larger ensembles and orchestras, ST. LUKE'S ANTHEM for choir and brass quartet and AFRICAN FOLK-TALE a musical story for lower primary age children. There are some large scale works for string quartet, orchestra and choral works which we hope to make available for hire. For more information and a full list of available works, please use the further information box at the end of the on line order form or e-mail us at <enquiries@piperpublications.co.uk>.

Our Young Soloist series grew from A MINIATURE CONCERTO for piano which was itself inspired by Schostakovich's Second Piano Concerto. The concept of a talented young player playing a concerto with his or her peers of more limited technical achievement in a school concert works extremely well and this work and those which make up the rest of the series have provided a great deal of enjoyment. Gordon also contributed his COMPACT CONCERTO (Flute), CHAMBER CONCERTO (descant recorder or piccolo), SONNET (oboe) and VIOLIN CONCERTO to the series. Gordon has also been a substantial contributor to our Favourites series for strings.

A complete list of Gordon's music with up to date information about availability has been compiled. Click here.


A Memorial Concert took place in Hereford on July 13th 2002 and the audience were invited to contribute a memory of Gordon. A selection of the responses so far appears below. If you knew Gordon and would like to contribute a memory, send us an e-mail or post it to: Pat Spence, Piper Publications, Dochroyle Farm, Barrhill, Girvan, Ayrshire UK KA26 0QG

An article about Gordon and his music written by Paul Conway contains a report about the memorial concert and a thoughtful assessment of his music.

From Christine Williams, colleague and friend

.. "popping in to see him at White Horse Square.. listening to his taped music .. reading his children's stories.. when they were published his local book shop had no idea he was a local author - such was his modesty. A man of simple tastes - no phone, no car (unless he hired one). On a day trip to Aberystwyth he was delighted to see some of his Piper Publications in a local music shop.

He had unexpected passions! As soon as he began to draw his teacher's pension he ordered a special mackintosh which arrived by post from Scotland, resplendant with many, many pockets. A passion for telling complicated jokes - he always got them right. His fortitude at Oaklands (the nursing home where he spent the last part of his life) .. he was always interested in all his visitors and hid his pain and frustration behind a veil of gentle self mockery. .. He was a wonderful listener and, if asked, would give thoughtful and caring advice. He .. loved getting letters, visits and photographs from his former pupils - and always knew where to put his hands on whatever he wanted to show you. A unique gentleman and friend."

From Joyce Davies, his neighbour at White Horse Square

"..thoughtful and kind with an infectious sense of humour and a great willingness to lend a helping hand .. his love of nature reflected in his music and books.."


From Joan Rees, who was head of the Margaret Allen Preparatory School where Gordon taught

" .. a favourite comment to struggling pupils was that their playing was 'nearly very good' .. He also encouraged the staff to form a school orchestra. A favourite performance piece was 'The Broomy Hill Suite' which the school commissioned him to compose.

.. A special memory was of listening to him from the adjoining staff room when the scraping of the most novice pupils was over, he soothingly played blues on the piano!"

From Ian Milnes, composer and friend

"Gordon and I firststarted writing to each other in the early 1980s and we found that we had much in common. His letters always included interesting and helpful comments and he kindly sent to me copies of private recordings ofseveral of his works, all of which I am continuing to enjoy and admire very much.

Though we didn't meet until the 1990s, we felt that, by then, we already knew each other well. It is sad that his music is not far better known, since it is accessible, enjoyable, well written in construction as well as for each instrument and has a definite individual style, with clear textures, effective melodies .. often having a spiritually uplifting quality ... sometimes being humorous. All these features of his music well reflect his personality, kind, patient .. a fully professional musician who did much to help and encourage his pupils, including composing delightful works for them....

I shall always be grateful for Gordon's warm friendship and only hope that his wonderful music will become better known."

From Margaret, Arthur, Beth, Bill & Alice Atherton, a musical family from Dorset where Gordon was county Music Adviser

"We enjoyed many happy evenings with him planning the West Dorset Children's Music Festivals. He did wonderful work with them and the youth orchestra. His music deserves a much wider audience.

"He became very special to our own children - encouraging their musical interests. We still cherish tapes of us all playing together and the lovely tapes of Fairy Tales he recorded against a background of beautiful music.

"Dear Gordon - you will always live on for us all."

From Norman & Nesta Jones, cousins and friends

"We shared a kindred Celtic spirit of adventure and mischievousness ... a love of nature and the environment.

"Gordon was best man at our wedding and he orchestrated the proceedings in his own inimitable and humorous style. .. Our fond memories of Gordon will endure forever in our hearts."

From Gwen Jepps, family friend

"I can still remember quite vividly some of the conversations we had ... a gentle, kind, patient person who had this great interest in music and a great respect for Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Lane.

I felt priviliged to attend the Memorial Concert in July - it was a very special evening and wonderful to see how Gordon had touched, influenced and helped so many people in his life. He was .. one of the nicest people that I have known."

From Colin Chambers, flautist & friend

"Gordon had a gentle, sweet nature ... he became a lodger in our house in South West London .. he used to babysit and sometimes took my son Guy out for walks in his pram. (Guy, who called him 'Goggon', is now musical director and co-writer for Robbie Williams, the pop star).

"Gordon once arranged a concert in which I played with Leon Goossens, the celebrated oboist, for which I will always be grateful."

From Peter Naylor, organist

"Gordon and I first met at the Ashwell Festival in 1968. In no time we had set up a musical partnership. Saxophone and organ ... worked surprisingly well. The Festival .. was greatly enhanced by his presence and his music. His friendship added an extra dimension of happiness to the whole experience for which I shall continue to be grateful.

"We .. could converse on any subject under the sun. Gordon will always occupy a special place in my memory."

From Pat Spence, Gordon's publisher

"I first met Gordon when he approached me concerning the publication of A MINIATURE CONCERTO for piano and school orchestra in the late 1970s. It was so refreshing to meet someone prepared to take so much care with composing music for young players. It was soon clear that Gordon was one of those very rare people who can write original music within set technical limitations without ever giving any indication that the scope of the music had been limited.

"It was not until Piper had published several pieces for young players that Gordon modestly broached the subject of his more mainstream works. Until that time Piper had published only educational music and, largely through making a commitment to Gordon's music, began to branch out into more advanced orchestral instrumental and vocalmusic taking on composers such as Thomas Pitfield, David Gow, Jack Hawes, Kenneth Gange and Ian Milnes.

"Gordon found the composing of his music so emotionally draining, particularly latterly, that he often said that he was ill for days after completing a new piece. When he was well and came to conduct performances of new works - Sun Will Shine, Flowers of the Forest - with the Staffordshire Chamber Orchestra he was popular with the members of the orchestra who enjoyed playing his music.

"He had a great sense of fun and one day at White Horse Square, I was challenged to play the double bass Sonatina with him - transposed up several octaves on the flute! His only complaint - that I hadn't brought my picc.!"


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