There are few conductors of choral music who achieved higher levels of recognition or acclaim than Sir David Willcocks. For over 30 years, as conductor of the Bach Choir and director of the Royal College of Music, he achieved a standard of performing and teaching second to none in the musical world.
Willcocks was a chorister at Westminster Abbey from ages 10 through 14, and later studied at Clifton College, before becoming an organ scholar at King's College, Cambridge in 1939. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, during which he served in the British Infantry, winning the Military Cross in 1944. He returned to King's College in 1945 to complete his studies, and became a Fellow of King's College in 1947 and conductor of the Cambridge Philharmonic Society that same year, as well as conductor of the Salisbury Musical Society and organist at Salisbury Cathedral. In 1950, he took the post of organist at Worcester Cathedral, and became conductor of the Worcester Festival Choral Society and the City of Birmingham Choir, a position he kept for seven years.
By the end of the decade, he was the director of music at King's College Cambridge, the organist of Cambridge University, and conductor of the Cambridge University Music Society, posts that he held into the 1970s, when he accepted the post of director at the Royal College of Music. In 1960, he also became music director of the Bach Choir. Willcocks conducted in most European countries, as well as Japan and the United States, and edited several collections of choral music.