Ruth Gipps

Ruth Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea (UK) on 20 February 1921 and by the age of ten she was playing piano concertos with local orchestras and her first compositions were published in 1929. At the age of 15 she was awarded a place at the Royal College of Music, London to study composition with R.O. Morris and Ralph Vaughan Williams, oboe with Leon Goossens, and piano with Arthur Alexander and Kendall Taylor. She won a number of composition prizes at this time and her tone poem ‘Knight in Armour’ was conducted by Sir Henry Wood at the Last Night of the Proms in 1942.

She played oboe and cor anglais with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1944-5) and subsequently began a conducting career which was certainly an unusual step for a woman in the 1940s and 50s. Undaunted, she founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955, which she ran until 1986, the London Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961, and was offered conducting work with the London Symphony Orchestra, Boyd Neel Orchestra and Pro Arte Orchestra.

Alongside her conducting and composing commitments, Ruth Gipps spent much of her life as a Professor of composition and harmony, including appointments at Trinity College of Music (1960-66), Royal College of Music (1967-77) and from 1977 as Senior Lecturer in Music at Kingston Polytechnic (now University). In 1967 she became the second woman to chair the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain and was awarded an MBE in 1981.

Dr. Jill Halstead, a leading academic writes: ‘Stylistically her work parallels the other British composers of her generation who were influenced by the folk song revival and the new Franco-Russian movement. Her style is easily accessible and rich in character, marked by use of highly melodic tonal/modal themes and vibrant orchestration; harmonically her work can be chromatically complex yet never fully leaves the realms of tonality.’

Ruth Gipps died on 23 February 1999 at the age of 78.