The School Carmen 

The ‘Carmen’ is one of the enduring traditions of Rossall. The homophonic texture of the harmony and the rich ‘sturdiness’ of the chosen key of  B flat major lends the melody a comforting feel. It feels both familiar and secure. Of course, it stirs up a sense of collegiate nostalgia but it is easy to become lost in one’s own thoughts when singing it.  It is a remarkably versatile song. It is performed on occasions of great solemnity but it is also performed with raucous sentimentality at our Christmas Dinner. Old Rossallians like to stand on their chairs when performing it after dinner in the dining hall. Aged joints and stiff limbs are no impediment and it is not uncommon to see a plucky octogenarian being helped down from his chair at such events. 

The composer of the ‘Carmen’ was none other than the all but forgotten composer,  Charles Harford Lloyd. It is a shame that so little of Lloyd’s music has endured, though his ‘Elegy in D’ and ‘Three Clarinet Pieces in the Old Style’ are still performed occasionally. Charles was born in 1849 to the family of a Gloucestershire solicitor. He was educated at home until the age of ten, receiving instruction from a governess. Musically, he was something of a child prodigy and became a church organist at the age of just ten. 

By the age of thirteen, Charles received keyboard and harmony lessons with Mr John Barrett who recalled:

During the year 1862, and to the end of 1865, it was my great privilege to be pianoforte teacher to Charles Hartford Lloyd. I look back upon those Thursdays when I journeyed from Bristol To Thornbury, as some of the red-letter days of my life. It was a grand experience to me to watch him, as he boldly attacked the works of the great masters, more especially Bach – he simply revelled in playing the Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues. He must have been in his thirteenth year when he commenced the study of them. At an early age he began as a composer, and frequently I looked through the manuscript of a composition which was to be rendered by the members of that truly happy and musical family who lived so near the church and castle of Thornbury. 

A lifelong friend was Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918), who spent much of his childhood at nearby Highnam Court, in Glourcestershire. 

Charles Lloyd came up to Rossall in 1865 where he remained until 1868. It was during his time at Rossall that he composed the Carmen. Almost a quarter of a century later, he expanded this work into  ‘Rossall – An Ode’ which was published by Novello. Incidentally the most recent arrangement of the Carmen was a set of variations for no less than twelve pianos and this was commissioned to mark the occasion of Rossall becoming an all-Steinway school. At Rossall, Charles was taught by Charles Handel Tovey, who was a relative of one of Britain’s most celebrated musicologists, Sir Donald Tovey. Sir Donald Tovey’s analysis of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas will be familiar to most A level music students of a certain age. 

Charles left Rossall and went up to Hertford College. Whilst at Oxford, he founded the Oxford University Music Club alongside Parry. He came under the influence of John Stainer who is nowadays best remembered for ‘The Crucifixion’.  Lloyd often played duets with Prince Leopold, Duke of Albanym who  was the youngest son of Queen Victoria. Prince Leopold died at the age of thirty due to complications associated with haemophilia. Upon leaving Oxford, Charles became a private tutor to the children of Lord Inverclyde. In 1875, he was appointed organist at Gloucester Cathedral, succeeding the great Samuel Sebastian Wesley. He conducted the Three Choirs Festival and taught organ to Herbert Brewer and George Robertson Sinclair. The Chapel Choir still regularly sings Brewer’s stirring setting of the evening canticles. George Robertson Sinclair became organist of Hereford Cathedral. He was later to become immortalised, alongside his bulldog, in Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’.

In 1882, Lloyd moved on to Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford where he conducted various orchestras including the Oxford Philharmonic Society. Throughout this time, Charles continued composing, but his works received mixed reviews. Indeed, his compositions are accomplished but stylistically unadventurous. As a music educator, Charles was extraordinarily influential but as a composer he was unremarkable. 

After Oxford, Charles moved on to Eton College where he remained until the outbreak of the First World War. He retired from Eton in 1914 and was soon after appointed organist of the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace. He was to hold this post until his death, which occurred very suddenly on the morning of his 70th birthday. 

Charles never married but his life was doubtlessly enriched by his friendships with many of the leading musical figures of the day. For almost half a century, he was at the very heart of musical life within these isles. He was a phenomenally talented organist and he possessed a very genial disposition.  His compositions are evocative of the late Victorian and Edwardian era but are no match for Parry, Elgar, Brewer et al. I know that some current members of Chapel Choir are determined that we should perform the ‘Rossall Ode’ next year and this would be a wonderful way of celebrating one of Rossall’s most illustrious alumni. Incidentally, Charles was offered the opportunity to become organist at Rossall but declined. Nevertheless, he did maintain a strong association with the School throughout his life.  


Jeremy Quartermain
Headmaster of Rossall School