Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. Sullivan composed 23 operas, 13 major orchestral works, eight choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous hymns and other church pieces, songs, and piano and chamber pieces. The best known of his hymns and songs include "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord".
The son of a military bandmaster, Sullivan composed his first anthem at age eight. He was selected as soloist in the boys' choir of the Chapel Royal. The Reverend Thomas Helmore, the choirmaster, encouraged Sullivan and arranged for the publication and performance of his early compositions. In 1856, the Royal Academy of Music awarded the first Mendelssohn Scholarship to the 14-year-old Sullivan, allowing him to study first at the Academy and then in Germany, at the Leipzig Conservatoire. His graduation piece was a suite of incidental music to Shakespeare's The Tempest. When it was performed in London in 1862, it was an immediate sensation. Sullivan began his composing career with a series of ambitious works, interspersed with hymns, parlour ballads and other light pieces. Among his best received early pieces were a ballet, L'Île Enchantée, and his Irish Symphony, Cello Concerto and Overture in C. From 1861 to 1872, he supplemented his income by working as a church organist and as a music teacher.
For myself, I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening's experiments. Astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever.