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 at St Barnabas

While it is well known that Ireland was the organist at two Chelsea churches, Holy Trinity and St Luke’s, it is less common knowledge that for a short time in 1897 he took over from Vaughan Williams as organist of St Barnabas, South Lambeth. Ireland recalled that Vaughan Williams’s duties at the church were ‘prodigious’, and in addition to the normal work of a church organist and choirmaster, he ran a choral society and an orchestral society in connection with this church. Indeed, Ireland’s first duties on taking over were to prepare performances of two big choral works: Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion and Stanford’s Revenge (‘Tributes to Vaughan Williams’, The Musical Times, October 1958, p.536). Vaughan Williams returned to the post after six months, leaving the church in 1899.

Holbrooke performing Ireland

Joseph Holbrooke had a career as composer and conductor, but was also an accomplished pianist. In the latter capacity, on 9 December 1918 he appeared in Liverpool’s Crane Hall, in a substantial programme of contemporary English music. Among the pieces heard were Ireland’s new piano pieces, ‘Chelsea Reach’ and ‘Ragamuffin’. Holbrooke also played works by Cyril Scott, and later accompanied Astra Desmond (1893–1973) in a selection of English songs, including ‘Sea Fever’.

Second Violin Sonata in Birmingham

Ireland’s Second Violin Sonata was a work much performed by many different soloists. In 1922 Ireland’s it was taken to Birmingham by Paul Beard and Michael Mullinar. The latter is perhaps best known for his associations with Vaughan Williams, as discussed here. Beard was originally born in Birmingham and in 1922 was back in the city as leader of the CBSO, staying there for the next ten years. After that he led first the LPO, then the BBCSO.

The formation of the John Ireland Society

On 4 May 1960 the recently-formed John Ireland Society put on its inaugural concert in the Purcell Room, in a programme of songs and chamber music. ‘Adroit and persuasive’, Eric Parkin played a number of Ireland’s piano works, among them Sarnia. The tenor John Steel sang The Land of Lost Content and other songs, accompanied by Alan Rowlands, who also played for Vyvyan Kendall in the First Violin Sonata and for Thea King in the Fantasy-Sonata. The composer, now aged 80, was present, and given a huge ovation. Lawrence Norcross, best known for his work in education, was responsible for the event, and indeed for the society more broadly.


Musical Opinion 83 (June 1960), p. 600.