John Farmer (1835-1901)

John Farmer (1835-1901)

John Farmer (16 August 1835 - 17 July 1901), from Nottingham, composed oratorios, cantatas, and other church music, and chamber music. The youngest of a large family, he was recognised as a child prodigy, and was taught by his uncle Henry Farmer (1819-91), who was also a composer, violinist and the owner of a music warehouse in Nottingham. After teaching abroad for some years John became music master at Harrow in 1862 as a result of being noticed while giving piano demonstrations at the London International Exhibition of that year. At Harrow he composed school songs, one of his best known being “Forty Years On,” which he wrote in 1872 (Edward Ernest Bowen wrote the lyrics). He also composed cricketing ditties like "Willow the King," one of the most famous of all cricketing songs.

A work of his called "Cinderella" was performed at Harrow in 1883. When he left Harrow he became Organist of Balliol College, Oxford, and founded the Balliol Concerts. He championed the music of Bach, and his own oratorio "Christ and His Soldiers" was popular with smaller choirs. Most of Farmer's stage works were intended for amateurs, often youngsters. His father, also John (1812 - 1894), was a Nottingham lacemaker and a cellist. John Farmer was buried at St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery, off Kingston Road, Oxford.

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