Cook Alfred Melville, 1912-1993, choirmaster and organist of Gloucester
Immediate source of acquisition:
Documents donated by Dr. A. Melville Cook via Gloucester library
Administrative / biographical background:
Alfred Melville Cook was born in Gloucester in 1912. During his musical career he studied and worked with such luminaries as Herbert Howells and Benjamin Britten. He stayed in Gloucester until 1935, as a chorister and assistant organist at the Cathedral under Herbert Sumison, before moving to Cheltenham to become organist at All Saints Church. In 1937 aged 25 he became the youngest choirmaster and organist to be appointed at the parish church at Leeds. During the war he served with the Royal Artillery in the Orkneys, East Africa, India and the Far East, and it was during this period that he met his wife in Scotland. The letters written mainly to his wife during World War II form an interesting part of this collection (D6885/2/3 below)
By 1946 he had returned to Leeds, a period which saw him perform on national radio both as a solo organist and choirmaster. He became conductor of the Halifax Choral Society, 1948, and founded the Leeds Guild of singers in 1950. In 1956 he took up the post of organist and choirmaster at Hereford Cathedral, where he was closely involved with the Three Choirs Festival, helping to introduce Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears to the Festival (D6885/3/2, 3/3 below).
By 1966 he had emigrated to Canada to become organist and choirmaster at churches in Winnipeg and Toronto. He stayed in Canada until the death of his wife in 1986.
Moving back to Cheltenham he maintained a strong interest in a variety of local and national subjects until his death in 1993.