Corbett Geoffrey

Geoffrey Corbett & Jane Vowles

Corbett was a rather famous conductor and musical orchestrator as well as being a life-long Communist from the early 1930s

He conducted the Vic Wells Opera Company at the Old Vic Theatre, London, leading the orchestra in performing a ballet for the orchestra by Gordon Jacobs. In the same year, at least, he was with the associated Sadler’s Wells Opera Company (which had opened a new theatre in 1931). He was a professor and conductor with London’s Trinity College of Music, conducted the London Philharmonic and was conducting scholar at the Royal College of Music. 

Though he clearly had his hand in other musical societies. The diaries of composer Thomas F Dunhill, on October 1936, record the following: “Geoffrey Corbett  called for score & parts of `Dick Whittington’ suite, which he is doing at Maidenhead – my old society. He now conducts it – & they’ve just made me their President!” [Thanks to Paul Vincent.]

After leaving the services at the end of World War Two, Corbett became musical director for the Rambert Ballet in 1949 and then conducted for the London Festival Ballet. He also conducted the Glasgow Grand Opera Society for 21 years and was a Fellow of the Trinity College of Music in London.


From around 1950, perhaps as a defensive response for his career, arising from the pressures associated with the Cold War, Corbett moved from the highly public profile of conducting to orchestration. He carried out this role for Sadler’s Wells productions from this point up to the start of the 1960s. It should be noted that orchestration – the writing of, or adapting, music for an orchestra that was originally composed for one medium into another medium has now become to be regarded as a compositional art in itself. By all accounts, Corbett was highly talented in this aspect.


Corbett was also a fine pianist and an arranger of diverse forms of music. He was long active with the Workers’ Music Association as its Vice-President, being associated all his life with the WMA apart from only four years when he served in the Royal Navy.  


He married the vivacious soprano singer Jane Vowles, who was professionally active in the late 1920s and 1930s, although they separated a few years before her death in the late 1960s. Jane also became a Communist, seemingly in later life, and regularly wrote opera criticism for the Morning Star.


Geoffrey died in April 1996 at the age of 88, remaining a firm supporter of the Daily Worker and Morning Star until the end.


Sources: various including Morning Star April 20th 1996


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