Donald Swann

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Donald Swann bigraphy, stories - British composer

Donald Swann : biography

30 September 1923 – 23 March 1994

Donald Ibrahím Swann (30 September 1923 – 23 March 1994) was a British-Azerbaijani composer, musician and entertainer. He is best known to the general public for his partnership of writing and performing comic songs with Michael Flanders (see Flanders and Swann).

Life

Donald Swann was born in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. His father was a Russian doctor of English descent, from the expatriate community that started out as the Muscovy Company, and his mother was a nurse from Transcaspia. She was an Azerbaijani – they were refugees from the Russian Revolution. Swann’s great-grandfather, Alfred Trout Swan, a draper from Lincolnshire, emigrated to Russia in 1840 and married the daughter of the horologer to the Tsars. Sometime later the family acquired a second ‘n’ to their surname. His uncle Alfred wrote the first biography of Alexander Scriabin in English.

The family moved to London, where Swann attended Dulwich College Preparatory School and Westminster School (where he first met Michael Flanders).

In 1941 Swann was awarded an exhibition to Christ Church, Oxford to read modern languages. In 1942 he registered as a conscientious objector and served with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit (a Quaker relief organisation) in Egypt, Palestine and Greece. After the war, Swann returned to Oxford to read Russian and Modern Greek.

In the 1970s, Swann became a Sponsor of the Peace Pledge Union.

Donald Swann was married twice; he married Janet Oxborrow in 1955 and they were divorced in 1983; his second wife was the art historian Alison Smith. In 1992 he was diagnosed with cancer. He died at Trinity Hospice in South London on 23 March 1994, survived by both wives and two children from his first marriage: Rachel and Natasha.

Father’s autobiography

Song collections

Books

Discography

Flanders & Swann

  • 1957 – Excerpts from At The Drop of a Hat (EP)
  • 1957 – More Excerpts from At The Drop of a Hat (EP)
  • 1957 – More out of the Hat! (EP)
  • 1959 – Little Drummer Boy/The Storke Carol (EP)
  • 1960 – At The Drop of a Hat (produced by George Martin)
  • 1961 – The Bestiary of Flanders & Swann (EP)
  • 1964 – At The Drop of Another Hat (produced by George Martin)
  • 1964 – Favourites from At The Drop of Another Hat (EP)
  • 1964 – More out of the New Hat (EP)
  • 1966 – EMI Comedy Classics (Hat and Another Hat on two cassettes)
  • 1967 – The Bestiary of Flanders & Swann (produced by George Martin)
  • 1975 – And Then We Wrote…
  • 1977 – Tried by the Centre Court
  • 1994 – The Complete Flanders & Swann (first three albums in a boxed set)
  • 1994 – A Transport of Delight: The Best of Flanders & Swann
  • 1997 – More out of the Drop of a Hat – Again! (double cassette)
  • 1999 – The Flanders and Swann Collection
  • 2000 – A Drop of Hilarity from Flanders & Swann
  • 2007 – Hat Trick: Flanders & Swann Collector’s Edition

Other works

  • 1951 – The Youth of the Heart (78 rpm)
  • 1958 – London Sketches (Donald Swann & Sebastian Shaw)
  • 1963 – Festival Matins (EP)
  • 1964 – Songs of Faith & Doubt (EP)
  • 1965 – For The Love of Betjeman (Donald Swann & Sir John Betjeman, EP)
  • 1966 – Donald Swann & the Choir of the Friends’ School, Saffron Walden (EP)
  • 1967 – Tolkien: Poems & Songs of Middle Earth (Donald Swann & William Elvin)
  • 1968 – Sing Round The Year (Boys of Westminster School and Girls of Mayfield Putney)
  • 1970 – An Evening in Crete (Donald Swann & Lilli Malandraki)
  • 1971 – The Song of Caedmon (Donald Swann & Arthur Scholey, EP)
  • 1973 – A Crack in Time (The Swann Singers)
  • 1973 – Wacky & His Fuddlejig (Donald Swann & Arthur Scholey, narrated by Peter Ustinov, EP)
  • 1973 – The Rope of Love (The Swann Singers)
  • 1975 – The Parable of the Lost Sons (Donald Swann & The Nairobi Youth Choir, EP)
  • 1980 – Radio Orwell (The Olive Quantrill Singers)
  • 1981 – Swann with Topping (Donald Swann & Frank Topping)
  • 1984 – Requiem for the Living (Donald Swann & Cecil Day-Lewis)
  • 1989 – Alphabetaphon (Donald Swann, 3 cassettes)
  • 1992 – Amiscelleny (Donald Swann & John Amis)
  • 1994 – Swann in Jazz
  • 1999 – The Isles of Greece