The English composer and music critic, Harry Dexter, obtained a Bachelor of Music degree at Durham University in 1930. He was a teacher in Sheffield and Leatherhead. in his earlier days as a struggling Sheffield musician he had to his credit a number of interesting amateur operatic productions. During World War II, whilst serving overseas as an army captain he composed a prize-winning symphony, but after the war he found himself without work and moved to London where he scraped a living "song plugging" and arranging for various publishers.
During the 1950ís, Harry Dexterís his lighter style of composition found favour with tastes in radio and television, particularly the BBC Light Programme. It has been said that one of his pieces was used as the signature-tune for the original Maigret series for BBC Television in 1960, although the credit for the theme tune and background music goes to composer Ron Grainer. He joined London music publisher Francis, Day and Hunter and later rose to become head of their light orchestral department, where in addition to composing gave advice to other composers in this field.
It was during this period Harry Dexter composed numerous short orchestral pieces include Frankfurt Polka, Bavarian Polka, Budgerigar Polka, Pas de Trois, Pizzicato Playtime, Waltz for a Bride, September Woods and his most famous work Siciliano in 1953. He also wrote vocal pieces for schools, ballads for choral ensembles and a number of religious anthems, as well as large quantity of simplified arrangements of famous classical works for use in teaching.
In addition to this work, Harry Dexter was music critic for several musical periodicals and in 1956 founded the Light Music Society, where he served as Chairman for several years, with Eric Coates as its first President. His final composition was "Pizzicato for a Poodle" in 1972.
Harry Dexter married Doris Herbert with whom he had a son Philip, and a stepson Francis.
Harry Dexter composed for amateurs as he produced a large number of arrangements for students, instrumental ones of Mozart, Haydn, Lehár, Grieg, Massenet, Johann Strauss, Debussy, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms and so on, for clarinet, recorder and flute, and vocal ones of traditional material from Britain, America (spirituals and others), France, Germany and Switzerland.
Other instrumental music included the Variations on Au Clair de la Lune and the Twelve County Dialogues, both for treble instrument and piano, the Scottish Street Dances for recorders and piano (or strings), Occasions and Moods for organ (1969) and, for piano solo, Maria's Music Box, Barney be Blowed, Six Pieces in Costume, A Little Prayer and Wrong Note Polka. Original vocal pieces for schools included The Little Silver Bell; What is the Meaning of it All?, The Friend, What can I do for Thee, Careless Love, The Bold Hunter, The Old Maid, Parting, The Possum and the unison comedy song So You Want to be a Musician? But his vocal output included old-fashioned ballad style songs in one, two or three parts like Give Me Those Things I Pray, Mother and Daughter, Be Still and In Blackmore by the Stour (also a Vaughan Williams title) and anthems such as Ave Maria, Rejoice in Life (3 part) and Give Us O Lord (2 part). And he also produced a quantity of light orchestral arrangements - notably Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay and Blow the Wind Southerly - and original 'novelties': Frankfurt Polka, Bavarian Polka, Budgerigar Polka, Pas de Trois, the marches New Town and Bang On, Pizzicato Playtime, the serenade Concetta, Waltz for a Bride, September Woods, Porta Roma, Still Waters, Sports Hero, Rosa, Marianina and, best known of all, Siciliano, lightly scored for just flute, oboe, two clarinets, piano and strings. This came out in 1953 and many of Dexter's most popular orchestral numbers date from the fifties, but as late as 1972 came Pizzicato for a Poodle. for strings.