On this day in 1949 works by John Ireland featured at the Royal Albert Hall. Two of his
symphonic poems, The Forgotten Rite and Mai-Dun, were performed by the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli, knighted in this year. This concert was one of a number of events across the country in which the composer’s 70th birthday was celebrated.
Eleanor Mysie Bickersteth Murray was a musician and distant relative of John Ireland. A descendant of the Alleynes of Barbados, she entered the RMCM in 1926 as a violinist. Murray’s legacy survives in the form of teaching pieces for violin and piano, written in conjunction with the pianist Phyllis Tate, a contemporary and friend of Ireland. These are mainly folk song arrangements.
On 13 November 1923 Ireland’s symphonic poem, Mai-Dun, was performed by the LSO at the Queen’s Hall under Australian conductor Aylmer Buesst (below) The review of the concert makes for entertaining reading. Not only was the conductor too fidgety, but Ireland’s melodies were ‘extraordinarily jejune’. This harsh assessment extended to other works in the programme. A new piece by Herbert Bedford, Hamadryad, was ‘anaemic’, so maybe Ireland came off lightly. At least the reviewer gave him the benefit of giving a lift to his melodies with his harmonies!
Source: The Times, 14 November 1923, page 8.
Ireland visited Jersey on many occasions, and lived on Guernsey in 1939 and 1940. The Channel Islands are not, however, only these two biggest and best-known, but embrace three distinct groups of islands. The northern cluster, centred on Alderney, also includes uninhabited Burhou, Ortac, Renonquet, the Casquets and a number of small islets. Furthest south, virtually on the Normandy coast, are the Iles de Chausey, as well as Les Minquiers and Douvres. John Ireland’s islands lie in the centre, and this group includes Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou, Lihou and smaller, fantastically-named reefs such as Les Écréhous, Les Dirouilles and Les Pierres de Lecq. Finally, there are tiny Tintageu and Crevichon, the latter renamed the green cone of Merg by Compton Mackenzie in his 1926 novel, Fairy Gold.
On 16 March 1956 Ireland’s nephew Tony wrote to him from 6 Cyprus Park, North Road, Belfast. At this time the composer was living in Rock Mill in Sussex, as is mentioned by Tony. Tony himself was now a teacher in Ireland, having separated from his wife Terry and restyled himself ‘The Baron’:
My dear Jack,
I hope you are enjoying your sojourn in rural Sussex away from the din and stink of the Fulham Road. Now that the days are lengthening and the crocuses over and the spears of daffodils beginning to peer, it must be pleasant to live under a clean sky, though the air is still keenly fresh.
I met a friend of yours the Irish painter Connor, who spoke of you most cordially and of the old days at the Chelsea Arts Club. Everyone who ever met you and mentions you, speaks of you with affection and cordiality.
I now have my own little circle of literary, musical and theatrical friends here. In fact in the autumn the opera house is staging my play “BYRON IN PICCADILLY”. I am earning a little bread to my butter in the shape of popular articles: see page 26 of Everybody’s. Do write, dear Jack, if it is only just a line. I shall be in London in July: hope to see you.