Lee, Ernest Markham

Ernest Markham Lee, a renowned English composer, poet, lecturer, pianist, and organist, left an indelible mark on the world of music. Born on June 8, 1874, Lee's musical journey began in his early years, where he displayed exceptional talent and passion for the arts. Throughout his illustrious career, he worked tirelessly to compose a diverse range of musical pieces, focusing on works for musical amateurs, particularly young musicians.

Early Life and Education

Ernest Markham Lee was born and raised in England, where he attended the prestigious Perse School and Emmanuel College. It was during his time at Emmanuel College that he had the privilege of being taught by the esteemed Charles Wood, who played a significant role in shaping his musical development. Under Wood's guidance, Lee honed his skills as a composer and pianist, laying the foundation for his future success.

A Multifaceted Career

Lee's career was as multifaceted as his talents. Alongside his composition work, he held several esteemed positions, including Professor of Organ at the Guildhall School of Music and Extension Lecturer at Oxford, Cambridge, and London Universities. Additionally, he served as an Examiner for the Associated Board and the Royal Schools of Music, which took him on a journey across countries like Canada, New Zealand, India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malta, and Jamaica. Lee's dedication to music education extended further as he served as a festival adjudicator and directed the Woodford Green chamber concerts.

Noteworthy Compositions

Ernest Markham Lee's compositions encompassed a wide range of genres, reflecting his versatility and ability to connect with diverse audiences. While his body of work was extensive, Lee's focus on creating pieces for musical amateurs, especially young musicians, was particularly noteworthy. Let's explore some of his notable compositions across various instruments.

Piano Compositions

Lee's piano compositions showcased his ability to create both intricate and accessible pieces. Among his notable works for the piano were the suite "Dreams and Delights" and several studies and short pieces. These compositions catered to musicians of varying skill levels, providing a platform for young pianists to explore and express themselves.

Piano Duet Compositions

In addition to solo piano works, Lee also wrote compositions for piano duets. His two sequences of six pieces each based on "Alice in Wonderland" captivated audiences with their whimsical melodies and imaginative storytelling. These pieces not only provided an opportunity for pianists to collaborate but also brought the beloved characters of Lewis Carroll's classic tale to life through music.

Compositions for Young Violinists

Recognizing the importance of nurturing young talent, Lee composed "The Fiddle and I," a collection of four pieces specifically tailored for young violinists. These compositions allowed budding violinists to develop their technical skills while exploring a variety of musical styles and emotions.

Ambitious Piano Works

While Lee's focus was primarily on creating accessible compositions, he also ventured into more ambitious piano works. The preludes "Hesperus" and "Serapis," as well as the "Modern Suite," showcased his ability to craft complex and evocative pieces that challenged experienced pianists.

 Cantatas and Part-Songs

Lee's contributions to choral music were equally significant. His cantatas and part-songs, both original compositions and orchestrations of folk tunes, were widely performed and beloved, particularly during festivals. Notable pieces include "Naughty Mary" for SATB choir, "Tender Sleep Enfold Thee" for women's voices unaccompanied or SATB, and "The Dream Seller" for upper voices.

Orchestral Music

Lee's love for orchestral music was evident in the vast amount of work he created for orchestras. His compositions showcased his mastery in orchestration and his ability to evoke powerful emotions through music. While his light opera "Paris in Spring" achieved moderate success, it was his orchestral compositions that truly captured the essence of his musical genius.

Devon-Inspired Works

Lee's deep connection to his homeland of Devon is evident in his compositions that pay homage to the rivers and landscapes of the region. Transcribing his piano originals for strings, Lee created pieces such as "Moorland and Torland," the "West Country Suite," and "Rivers of Devon" (Tamar, Dart, Torridge, Lyn). These compositions beautifully captured the spirit and natural beauty of Devon, showcasing Lee's passion for his surroundings.

Contributions to Musical Literature

In addition to his prolific compositional output, Ernest Markham Lee made significant contributions to musical literature. His published works focused on musical history and biography, displaying his extensive knowledge and passion for the subject. Some of his notable books include "The Music Lover's Ear Tests," "On Listening to Music," "A Course of Music," "Musical Theory and Knowledge," and biographies of renowned composers such as Tchaikovsky and Edvard Grieg. His writings provided valuable insights into the world of music, serving as educational resources for aspiring musicians and music enthusiasts.

Legacy and Impact

Ernest Markham Lee's contributions to the world of music continue to resonate today. His dedication to creating accessible compositions for amateur musicians, particularly young talent, has left a lasting impact on the development of music education. By championing the importance of music appreciation and understanding, Lee inspired generations of musicians to pursue their artistic passions and connect with audiences on a profound level.


Ernest Markham Lee's life and music exemplify the power of creativity and passion in the world of music. Through his diverse compositions and unwavering commitment to music education, Lee left an indelible mark on the musical landscape. His ability to create accessible yet evocative pieces continues to inspire musicians of all ages and backgrounds. As we celebrate the legacy of Ernest Markham Lee, we honor his contribution to the world of music and his unwavering dedication to nurturing the next generation of musicians.


Sticky Add To Cart