British organist and composer Thomas McLelland-Young (1937- ) was between 1970 and 1994 organist and choirmaster at St. Leonards, Streatham, and also for many years a ballet accompanist at the Royal Ballet School in London. He is now based in the Hastings area of Sussex.
By the 1970s St. Leonard’s was part of the anonymous London sprawl, on the way down, and yet the church choir, under the leadership of an inspiring organist and choirmaster, Tom McLelland-Young, kept alive the flame of a musical tradition that—as Andrew Gant, in his history of English church music, O Sing unto the Lord, makes clear—can trace its roots back to late antiquity.
Tom McLelland-Young celebrated his 75th birthday at the Unitarian Church on Sunday 9 September 2011 with performances of a wide range of his own compositions. Joined by a small group of friends, he opened with an early setting of Matthew Arnold’s Come to me in my dreams sung by soprano Pamela Hall. The accompaniment is romantic, almost sentimental at times, but there is a hint of the austerity which is to feature widely in his more recent compositions.
The Adagio Barocco is a pleasing pastiche which has a finely wrought melodic line for the violin solo. An accomplished improviser at the organ, it was interesting to see that Tom was filling out the organ part essentially from the violin solo line – as would have happened in the eighteenth century.