Ernest Tomlinson MBE

British Composer  1924 – 2015

English composer, Ernest Tomlinson MBE (19 September 1924 – 12 June 2015) is particularly noted for his light music compositions and orchestral pieces. He produced a considerable body of works ranging from overtures, suites and rhapsodies and miniatures.

Three Notable Works

This sweet, delicate piece is one of Tomlinson’s most popular. Composed in 1955 as music for a radio play, ‘The Story of Cinderella‘, when Prince Charming meets her & is struck by her beauty and charm.

The Concert Jig is the third movement of Tomlinson’s ‘Silverthorn Suite’. Conducted by Vernon Handley and performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and released in 1997 by Sony Music.

“The whole suite deserves to rank as a classic in the British orchestral repertory.” (The Gramophone March, 1995). Ernest dedicated this suite of English Folk Dances to his sister, Freda. See below.

“Memorable Melody is Still to Me…The Fountain-Head of All Music.”

– Ernest Tomlinson

The First Suite of English Folk Dances

On 5th January 1951 the ‘English Folk-Dance and Song Society‘ held a New Year ‘Festival of Folk-Dance‘ at the Royal Albert Hall.  Ernest Tomlinson and his wife were in the audience.

At the close of first act, three couples danced in 17thcentury costumes, to ‘Jenny Pluck Pears‘, an old English dance, played by two violins.

Inspired by the performance Tomlinson went on to extract and arrange for orchestra the six dances of ‘The First Suite of English Folk Dances‘ from John Playford’s book ‘The Dancing Master’, first published in 1650.

His arrangement of  ‘Dick’s Maggot’ was used as the theme tune to Steve Race’s ‘Invitation to Music’ programme on the BBC Radio 4.

The Library of Light Orchestral Music

With the arrival of Pop Music many light orchestras were disbanded.

The BBC, music publishers, orchestras, theatres and libraries began to discard their collections of Light Music.

Ernest Tomlinson was shocked to realise that music, much of it written by living composers, was simply being discarded as if it were of no value.

He began to collect and save whatever he could and stored it in the barn adjoining his Lancashire home overlooked by Jeffrey Hill (Left).

This was the beginning of what was to become  the Library of Light Orchestral Music

Tomlinson's Lancashire


Ernest’s Music was popular in the world of cinema, and is much used by  filmakers, featuring in a range of films and television series.






Blue Shell Incident

For more films featuring Ernest’s Music, visit

Recognition & Awards 

‘Ernest Tomlinson has long held an honoured place as the doyen of English-born composers of light orchestral music.’  – Gramophone

Two Time Ivor Novello Award Winner

– 1970 & 1975

Founder of the Ribble Valley Choir

– 1989

Stalwart of the Light Music Society

– 1966 to 2009

Composer Director of the Performing Right Society (PRS)

1965 – 1992

Member of the Order of the British Empire

– 2012

Chairman of the Composers Guild

– 1964

Head Boy of the Manchester Cathedral Choir School

– 1939

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