Tomorrow shall be my dancing day – no more

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day – no more


norman lebrecht

December 14, 2011

The English composer John Gardner has died in Hampshire, aged 94.

His chief claim to popularity was the Christmas carol, Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,a perennial at Kings and on TV. Watch it here.

In the 1950s, Gardner was much in demand. He had an opera. The Moon and Sixpence, staged at Sadlers Wells and a piano concerto chosen by John Barbirolli for the Cheltenham Festival. But public success proved ephemeral and he dedicated himself to teaching. His last work, a bassoon concerto, opus 249, was completed in 2005.

John Gardner conducting, 1967


  • Nicholas Daniel says:

    Hello there,
    I’m mourning the loss of my old friend John, but I wanted to correct you. He himself chose not to write opera after Moon and 6d, it followed Peter Grimes at Sadlers Wells and was hugely successful. I think he though opera was tacky actually! But he remained a great composer to the last, writing more than 200 works, including several for me. His concerto slow movement has a decidedly Greek aspect to it after we happened to find ourselves on Paxos with he and his beloved Jane in the early 80s.
    John was a simply wonderful character, a great composer with refined and ascetic tastes, and as broad a knowledge of music as anyone I ever met. He also wrote the end of Eleanor Rigby when Macca got stuck and Jane Asher’s Mum asked him for help.
    He had a late career as a plagiarism expert, and was involved in MANY cases involving a certain composer!!
    I loved him and respected him, and will treasure the works he wrote for me.

    • Thanks, Nick. I exchanged letters with him when I was writing my book on Civ Garden, where he was a repetiteur while he was writing Moon & 6d. He didn’t want to say much, which rather confirms your impression. Intrigued abt Eleanor Rigby, tho. Will check it out.

  • The Eleanor Rigby involvement was never conclusive. Dad certainly went to give McCartney lessons in the early 1960s but reading between the lines they didn’t go too well. It was certainly at the time that Eleanor Rigby came out and that was the song that Dad talked about in terms of having helped McCartney by giving him some ideas. But he was never explicit about which bit he might have written. Based on the evidence of his more recent orchestral works he didn’t actually learn much. It must have been a bit like Ravel giving Gershwin lessons. “How much do you earn, Mr Gershwin?”. And on hearing the answer, “YOU should be teaching ME”. Joe Jackson was another pop musician who suffered under JG’s demanding tutelage. I found a contemporary newspaper article in which McCartney talked about the lessons. It’s in a pile of stuff in my garage right now and I can’t easily lay my hands on it, unfortunately. it would be nice if some other of Dad’s works received a fraction of the attention lavished on “Dancing Day”, but I suppose one must be grateful even for that.

    • Has the piano concerto been done since Cheltenham? Tks very much for the ER information. It is completely unknown to Beatles historians. If you could dig out McCartney talking about the lessons that wd be very interesting.

      • I have the article as I said – just a matter of time before I unearth it again, but I realise it should be passed onto the Beatle afficionados . It was the Evening News I think.

        Malcolm Binns did the concerto with Adrian Boult in the mid 1960s at the RFH. When we recorded it with Peter Donohoe a few years ago the publisher couldn’t find the part – Malcolm had had it in his possession since the performance!

  • The choir I conduct has sung “Entry of the 3 kings” a couple of times, (with a lovely oboe obbligato, Mr Daniel!) and we loved it. I would love to get to know more of his music…

  • Esther Williams says:

    So sorry to hear about Mr. Gardners’ passing. I, too, would love to get my hands on more of his music. We’ve been delighted by “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” here at Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. I would love to take a listen to “Entry of the Three Kings.” Has this piece been recorded and if so, where can I get my hands on it?

  • Emily Gardner says:

    This is the line that Chris put onto John’s website, which is presumably drawn from the article in the paper.
    Paul McCartney, who took private lessons from him, has never said much more than “I went to a composer for some composition lessons”