Remembering Phyllis Tate

A post at The Overgrown Path gave a passing mention to the work of British composer Phyllis Tate. The specific reference was that she, among other British composers, were often neglected due to the fame that Benjamin Britten carried throughout his lifetime. In reading the brief article I was glad to be reminded of the life and work of a composer who continues to be neglected.

Phyllis Tate (1911-1987) was a British composer whose works often fell in the avant-garde category. She had very auspicious beginnings, reportedly being kicked out of grade school for singing bawdy songs, and later teaching herself how to play the ukulele. Though she did continue to the Royal Academy of Music for formal training and was a prolific composer. During her lifetime she had several commissions, including several from the BBC.

She primarily wrote chamber pieces with unorthodox instrumentation and was extremely critical of her earliest works; she destroyed all of works she composed before 1940. Her works were well received in her lifetime. In fact, after hearing her play Dame Ethel Smyth was said to declare, “At least I have a heard a real woman composer!” (More on that anecdote found here.)

Here is an example of her work – Sonata for Cello and Clarinet (1947):