1936 - 2014
William Patrick Gowers was born in Islington, north London, on May 5 1936; among his forebears were Sir William Gowers, the eminent 19th-century neurologist, and Sir Ernest Gowers, the author of Plain Words. He was brought up in Oxford and Dorchester-on-Thames, and educated at Radley, which he disliked because its demands for conformity did not suit him.
His musical talent blossomed at Clare College, Cambridge, where he became entranced by the music of Marty Paich, the West Coast jazz arranger. As music director of the Footlights he wrote the score for Share My Lettuce, a musical by Bamber Gascoigne that starred Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams and was seen in London in 1957. While completing his PhD on the work of Erik Satie, he taught several Cambridge students, including John Rutter.
In 1964 he was music director for Peter Brook’s stage production of Marat/Sade, in which he was required to appear on stage as an inmate of a Parisian lunatic asylum. He arranged that he would play the harmonium and the tuba simultaneously, thereby making himself irreplaceable. He was reluctant to transfer to Broadway with the show, so asked for his fee to be doubled – it was, so he had to go. The film version, in 1967, starred Glenda Jackson and Ian Richardson.
In addition to his composing, Gowers worked as jazz critic for the Financial Times, director of the electronic music studio at Dartington and as assistant conductor of Bill Russo’s London Jazz Orchestra. He also played keyboards for the New Swingle Singers.