John’s father, William West, was an organist and founder of the North-East London Academy of Music. His mother, the self-styled Madame Clara West, was a professional soprano, and his sister, Lottie West, a professional contralto soloist, pianist and teacher.
John Ebenezer West was taught at home by his father and received further organ lessons from Frederick Bridge, organist at Westminster Abbey. From 1880-82, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where he was taught composition by his uncle, Ebenezer Prout, the respected authority on the fugues of Bach. He gained his Associateship from the Academy in 1898 and passed the
Fellowship exam of the then College of Organists (it did not receive
Royal status until 1893).
He held successive organ posts in London at St. Mary’s, Bourdon Street (1884-91); St. John of Jerusalem, South Hackney (1891-97); and St. Augustine’s, Queen’s Gate (1897-1902). He conducted various choral societies and choirs in London, Reading, Croydon and Warlingham and lastly, the Railway Clearing House Male-Voice Choir. This choir was highly regarded in the early 20th Century, as reviews in The Musical Times reveal. It was famous enough to secure the services of Stanford Robinson as conductor after West’s death.