Michael Head was born in Eastbourne on 28th January 1900. His father was a barrister and legal journalist, and his mother a fine amateur singer. Michael Head was first educated at Monkton Combe School, near Bath, followed by Home School, Highgate. His formal music training began at the Adair-Marston School of Music, studying piano with Mrs. Jean Adair and voice with Mr. Fritz Marston. In 1918 Michael Head was called up for national service which interrupted his schooling, but not his composing, and while working at a munitions factory wrote four songs as a cycle ‘Over the Rim of the Moon’, at the young age of 19. These were his first published works, published by Boosey and Hawkes in 1919. Later in 1919 Micheal Head began a period of study with John Ireland, and by September 1919, was a student at the Royal Academy of Music as the Sir Michael Costa Scholar for composition. Whilst at the RAM Michael Head studied composition with Frederick Corder, piano with T B Knott and Organ with Reginald Stegall. In addition to the Costa Scholarship, whilst at the RAM, Michael Head won many awards for composition, sight singing and harmony. In 1924 Michael Head was elected Associate of the RAM, and in 1926 accepted a post at Bedales School, Petersfield, where he taught for three years. In 1927 Michael Head was appointed professor of Piano at the RAM, a position he held until his retirement in 1975. Michael Head was a regular broadcaster, first broadcasting in 1924, presenting a programme of 3 of his own songs. This first broadcast grew into many broadcasts often with other performers. Michael Head also gave spoken broadcasts on various musical topics of his time. Michael Head was also a regular adjudicator of music festivals, the first of which was in Jamaica in 1929. He was also a busy examiner for Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music taking many tours of duty to places as far flung as the West Indies, Hong Kong, British Guyana and Canada. Michael Head received huge acclaim for recitals in which he would accompany himself singing his own songs! During Michael Heads’ lifetime he was renowned as a teacher, pianist, singer, broadcaster, adjudicator/examiner and composer and it is the latter of these for which he is best remembered. Michael Head wrote orchestral works, opera, chamber opera, oratorio, a piano concerto, chamber works for all instruments, and over 124 solo songs. It is his Solo Songs which have survived as the most regularly performed of his music.
Michael Head wrote songs in two clearly differentiated styles, diatonic and chromatic. It is the diatonic style of song that is now most widely remembered (eg. Sweet Chance that Led My Steps Abroad, Why Have you Stolen my Delight) as these are pleasant to the ear and easy to understand, and for these reasons it is easy to see why they have remained well loved. The chromatic style of Michael Heads’ song writing is also represented well on this recording (eg. Nocturne, A Piper). Michael Head wrote in both styles and neither is earlier or later than the other with examples of his chromatic writing being evident from the age of 19. In all of the songs Michael Head wrote it is very clear that there were two areas of equal importance in his song writing, the musical content of each song, and effectiveness of the word setting to create a complete musical miniature in every one of his songs.
A beautiful melody!