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Obituary: Dr Trevor Hold

All those whose lives have been touched by Trevor and his music - and there are many - were saddened to hear of his death in January.

He was born in Northampton and it was his claim that it was the influence of the local brass band tradition and a mother who kept him at his piano practice which led him to read music at the University of Nottingham where he graduated with a First.

His first post was as the music master at Market Harborough Grammar School. He then moved into higher education - first as an Assistant Lecturer at Aberystwyth in 1963 then as a Lecturer in Music at the University of Liverpool. It was the University of Leicester's good fortune, and the good fortune of many in the region, that his homing instinct took over in 1970 and he came to the Department of Adult Education with a dual role as Lecturer in Music (Senior Lecturer in 1979) and with responsibility for organising the Department's programme throughout Northamptonshire. 

Early on in his career at Leicester he filled an interregnum by acting as the Director of the University's Music Department for one year in addition to these roles. He took early retirement in 1989 to devote himself to his writing and composition, although he continued to teach for the Department for many years after that.

Apart from his close family and his wide circle of friends Trevor had two loves - the first was his music, and the second was natural history and all that went with it. Whilst this latter found its main expression in Northamptonshire, his knowledge of our national bird sanctuaries and other conservation areas was detailed and profound. And this, of course, spilled over into his music, most of which was founded in the English pastoral sensibility as was his poetry. As well as being a prolific and widely performed composer and the author of studies of English song writers, he also had four slim volumes of verse published in his lifetime.

Trevor's music was performed nationally by the BBC and the writer has a particularly personal and warm memory of the London Voices performing his settings of Hardy poems at the Purcell rooms some years ago. But the University was a principal beneficiary of his creativity and Anthony Pither writes:

Since 1975 the University Music Department has performed 17 of Trevor Hold's works, one of them, Kemp's Nine Daies Wonder, by his friend and colleague, the composer and pianist, the late James Walker ­ three times.  

Many of Trevor's compositions are settings of poems by his favourite poets ­ from e e cummings to fellow-Northamptonshire poet, John Clare. For a number of pieces, Trevor set his own poems or wrote his own libretto, as in Book of Beasts (1984) and Glasgerion (1977, first performed in 1984), an ambitious work for tenor and harp that was repeated at a University concert on February 21, 2004. For his PhD in Composition at the University, he submitted an opera, The Second Death (1988), again to his own libretto, and, like Glasgerion, involving a story within a story.

There are also pieces with traditional titles, such as Trio, Clarinet Quintet, and most recently, Sonata. In all Trevor set out to do - and he accomplished a great deal - his writing was always beautifully presented (he was not attracted to computers!), his musical arguments always cogent, and his music in a style that usually related to the English pastoral tradition. In a discussion with Trevor shortly before Christmas 2003, we agreed to feature his new Piano Sonata: it will form part of a lunchtime concert in February 2005. Planning ahead made the news of Trevor's early death all the sadder. At the same time we know that his music and poetry will live on.

Trevor wrote extensively on English Song. Reviewing his last published book, Parry to Finzi: Twenty English Song-composers (2002), John Talbot described Trevor as "a real companion on his reader's journey of discovery". In the same year, his setting of Laurie Lee's Day of these Days won the English Poetry and Song Society/English Music society 2002 Golden Jubilee Song Competition. And back in the early 70s, Trevor published notated vocalisations of birdsong that he, like Messiaen, had studied, and subsequently incorporated into his music. The pastoral element ran through almost all Trevoršs work.

This brief notice can do little other than give a flavour of Trevor's contribution to the cultural life of the University and the region. He was meticulous in all that he did. He believed that music had something to offer to everybody and he brought a sense of values along with him to all his colleagues and friends. 

He was a first rate accompanist in his own right and a talented teacher. As one who taught alongside him on many occasions - his love of English song gave rise to a series of courses on words and music - I never came away from one of his teaching sessions without knowing that I had gained something. His energy, his occasional tetchiness when he came across something which he considered second rate, his capacity for friendship and his belief that life, like music, was not something to be observed but something in which one participated, will be sorely missed. But we are fortunate that he has been with us and that his music remains.

Trevor leaves a wife, Sue, and daughters, Sally and Becky.

Bill Forster

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Last updated: 17 February 2004 17:00
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