On this day: 31 January 1922

On this day in 1922 one of Ireland’s regular performers, George Parker (below), took several of his songs to Exeter, placing them in a programme that also included works by Bax, Butterworth and Stanford.


The Enoch ballad concerts

On 20 November 1920 two of Ireland’s songs were performed in a ballad concert. The composer was at the piano to accompany his friend and regular singer of his music, George Parker. Parker also performed three of Stanford’s Songs of a Roving Celt.

Enoch & SonsThe Enoch ballad concerts were held on Saturday afternoons at Westminster’s Central Hall, founded by the music publishing firm Enoch & Sons. Through these concerts they aimed to ‘make the best of both worlds’, in the sense that they were intended to attract and please a non-specialist audience.

Unfortunately for the composer, his new songs were on this occasion not very positively received. This reviewer hoped that Ireland was not about to embark on a career as a balladist, and indeed that was not the route he took after 1920!

JI Nov 1920


Source: ‘New Songs by John Ireland’, The Observer, 21 November 1920, p.17.

Christmas Eve, 1904

For many years the month of December was, for John Ireland, one associated with carols and the church. On 24 December 1904, in his new role as organist and choir director at St Luke’s, Chelsea, he managed his first full choral evensong for Christmas Eve, ‘when the warmth and brightness of the large Church within must have contrasted pleasantly with the murky, misty atmosphere outside’ (St Luke’s parish magazines, 1905, p.12). To begin, the hymn ‘All my heart this night rejoices‘ was sung. The usual anthem was replaced with the carol ‘The manger throne’, and the offertory hymn was ‘It came upon the midnight clear’. After the blessing Ireland and his choir performed ‘A Virgin unspotted, the prophet foretold‘. The church was richly decorated with laurel and holly. Red tulips stood in dramatic contrast to white chrysanthemums and narcissus flowers.


Ireland’s books: Čapek, The Cheat

On Ireland’s bookshelves was Karel Čapek’s novel The Cheat, lent to him by his friend George Dannatt. It’s an interesting book for several reasons. Left unfinished at the Czech author’s death in 1938, it was then completed by his wife Olga Scheinpflugova. It tells of a man who wishes to be a musician and composer of an opera, but who ends up as a musical plagiarist. It was translated into English in 1941, also published under the title The Life and Times of Compose Foltýn. Čapek (shown below) is better known as an important contributor to the development of the genre of science fiction. It was a perceptive choice on the part of Dannatt, as Ireland was drawn both to fictionalised musical worlds and to evocations of the uncanny.

A Guernsey megalith

When Ireland moved to Guernsey in 1939 one of his homes was in the district of St Martin’s, where he rented a house called ‘Woodside’, set on Blanche Pierre Lane, which sits between the village centre and the sea. In one direction Ireland could walk to the dramatic coastline at Fermain Bay. Going the other way, a short daily walk took him to St Martin’s Church, which held great appeal for the composer for its bringing together of Christian and pagan worship. The church stands on the site of an ancient tomb-shrine, below which emerge two springs. A famous megalith stands outside the church, going by the name of La Gran’mère du Chimquière. This dates from around 2000BC, and historically has seen many offerings from parishioners in search of medical cures or to ensure fertility.

On this day: 3 December 1911 and 1916

On this day in 1911 and 1916, it was the 1st Sunday in Advent at St Luke’s, Chelsea. The anthem at evensong in 1911 was Handel’s ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people’, from Messiah. In 1916 it was ‘Lord, for Thy tender mercy’s sake’, at that time attributed to the 16th-century composer Richard Farrant. On both occasions there were two services with music.

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