Composer. Born in Sydney, Australia, he travelled to London in 1911 to study composition and piano. He joined the Army at the start of World War I and later transferred to the Royal Air Force; in May 1918 he was shot down behind enemy lines and spent the rest of the war in a German P. O. W. camp. After demobilization Benjamin returned to Australia, but he found its cultural atmosphere too restrictive and settled permanently in England in 1921. Five years later he became professor of piano at the Royal College of Music, where his students included Benjamin Britten. Benjamin's witty, neoromantic style was often dismissed by critics as unfashionable, but several of his works have great merit: the opera "The Devil Take Her" (1931); the "Violin Concerto" (1932); his score for the film "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1934); "Overture to an Italian Opera" (1938); the "Oboe Concerto" (1942), adapted from keyboard sonatas of Cimarosa; and a "Symphony" (1948). He scored his biggest success with a piece of light music, the "Jamaican Rumba" (1938). It was so internationally popular the Jamaican government awarded the composer a free barrel of rum a year. Alfred Hitchcock fans will be familiar with the "Storm Clouds Cantata" Benjamin wrote for the film "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934), and which was used to even greater effect in the 1956 remake. Benjamin was also a noted conductor and from 1941 to 1946 he was Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He died of cancer in London, and was cremated at Golders Green.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards