Ernest Bristow Farrar (1885-1918) was born in Lewisham, London, but moved in 1887 to Micklefield in Yorkshire, where his father was a clergyman. The rest of his life was very much centred in the North of England, which had a thriving concert and recital tradition, particularly at the turn of the century. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School, and in 1905, was awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Music where he studied composition with Stanford and organ with Parratt. It was here that he also met and became friendly with Frank Bridge. In 1906, he was awarded the Arthur Sullivan Prize and in 1907 the Grove Scholarship. In 1909, Farrar spent six months in Dresden as organist at the English church. On returning to England, he took up a position as organist and choirmaster at St Hilda’s in South Shields before moving to Christ Church in Harrogate in 1912. During this period he continued to make connections with local orchestras.
Gerald Finzi went to Ernest Farrar for lessons which continued throughout the war.
He arrived in France in September of 1918, where he befriended J. B. Priestley. On September 18th, after only two days at the front, he was killed by machine gun fire, leading his men in the Battle of Epéhy.
Priestley wrote to his widow ‘your husband was a representative of one of the finest types of humanity, a creative artist freed from all little meanness’s and jealousies. It was a privilege to know him.’
Ernest Farrar’s music has been neglected since his death. It might be that he came to be seen as representing the pre-War era which had now passed. In addition to several fine organ works, he composed some signficant orchestral works, and, had he lived, would undoubtedly have been a very important composer.