Gordon Jacob

From Wind Repertory Project
Gordon Jacob


Gordon Jacob (5 July 1895, London - 8 June 1984, Saffron Walden) was an English composer and pedagogue.

The youngest of ten siblings, Jacob enlisted in the Field Artillery to serve in World War I when he was 19, and was taken POW in 1917, one of only 60 men in his battalion of 800 to survive.

After being released he spent a year studying journalism, but left to study composition, theory, and conducting at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Charles Villiers Stanford, Adrian Boult and Ralph Vaughan-Williams. After teaching at Birbeck and Morley Colleges in London, Jacob joined the RCM staff in 1924 and remained until his retirement in 1966. His pupils included Malcolm Arnold, Imogen Holst and Joseph Horovitz. Sadly, because of his cleft palate and a childhood hand injury, his instrumental abilities were limited; he studied piano but never had a performing career.

Jacob's first major successful piece was composed during his student years: the William Byrd Suite for orchestra, after a collection of pieces for the virginal. It is better known in a later arrangement for the symphonic band. While a student Jacob was asked by Vaughan Williams to arrange the latter's English Folk Song Suite in full orchestral form. At the time of his death in 1984, he had written over 700 works. His numerous offerings for wind band, including Old Wine in New Bottles, Music for a Festival, Original Suite, Giles Farnaby Suite, The Battell and William Byrd Suite follow the precedent set by Gustav Holst and former teacher Ralph Vaughan Williams. These English composers' works formed the cornerstone of the wind band repertoire in the early part of the 20th century.

Jacob became a Fellow of the Royal College in 1946, and throughout his career would often write pieces for particular students and faculties. He was also an author on the subject of music and edited the Penguin Pocket Scores.

After his retirement from the Royal College in 1966, he continued to support himself by composing, often on commission. He describes many of the works as "unpretentious little pieces", though some of his most famous works were published during this time, including his 1984 Concerto for Timpani and Wind Band.

Works for Winds


  • Dean, Brett T. Basically British Biographical Paper.
  • Gordon Jacob website Accessed 28 June 2021
  • Gordon Jacob. Wikipedia. Accessed 22 July 2023
  • "Jacob, Gordon." G&M Brand Publications. Web. Accessed 18 February 2021
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. 2010. Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 783.
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. 2007. Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 6. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 423.
  • Thompson, Kevin. "Gordon Jacob in Conversation" Journal of the British Association of Symphonic Bands & Wind Ensembles, Spring 1982.
  • Thompson, Kevin. "Gordon Jacob—'I aim a greater simplicity nowadays.'" The Instrumentalist vol. 38, no. 2, September 1983, pp. 38-39.