Light music composer Ernest Tomlinson dies aged 90

12 June 2015, 11:48 | Updated: 29 July 2015, 12:03

Composer's Suite of English Folk Dances is a Classic FM favourite.

Born in Lancashire in 1924, Ernest Tomlinson wrote light orchestral pieces which became a well-loved fixture on radio, television and stage in the decades following World War II. He had his first piece broadcast in 1949 and six years later, he formed the Ernest Tomlinson Light Orchestra. 

Tomlinson produced a wide range of works – including overtures, suites, rhapsodies and miniatures. His Little Serenade and Suite of English Folk Dances - particularly the movement titled Dick's Maggot - are regularly played on Classic FM. In the 1960s he composed a number of pieces for the test card, including Stately Occasion and Capability Brown.

“Ernest Tomlinson will be warmly remembered as long as people enjoy listening to melodic music,” said Classic FM presenter Catherine Bott.

“Light music is all about melody and enjoyment, always beautifully crafted and full of colour,” she said. “Ernest was among the very best of British light music composers, his exceptional technical skills allied to a rare gift for melody.”

Tomlinson also composed several symphonic works in a jazz style. In 1966, when he conducted his Symphony '65 in the Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow, it was the first time such a work had been heard in Russia.

"He was a good composer," conductor Iain Sutherland told Classic FM. "His gift of melody and harmony was backed up by his brilliance as an orchestrator. His music has been part of my professional life since I started broadcasting 45 years ago right up to the present."

In 1976, Tomlinson took over the directorship of the Rossendale Male Voice Choir from his father. He was also the founder of the Northern Concert Orchestra, with whom he gave numerous broadcasts and concerts, and won the Composers' Guild Award in 1965 and two Ivor Novello Awards – one for his full-length ballet Aladdin in 1975, the other for services to light music in 1970. 

In 1984, Tomlinson founded The Library of Light Orchestral Music, housed in a barn at his Lancashire farmhouse. The library contains around 50,000 pieces, including many items that would otherwise have been lost. 

He was awarded an MBE in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to music (pictured).

In September 2014, on the composer’s 90th birthday, Classic FM broadcast a complete Full Works Concert of his music.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of a man whose music has always been loved, not just by listeners, but by the musicians who perform it - which is not always the case with composers!” said Catherine Bott.

Iain Sutherland agreed. "He is gone but his music will be heard from time to time, and we will be a little happier."