Ireland’s accountant

Ireland’s accountant before the Second World War, and especially while he was living in Deal, was Alfred Tregear Chenhalls (1900–43), a businessman who acted for many important figures, notably the actor Leslie Howard. The date of Chenhalls’s death is striking, and has been well documented. The most prevalent and convincing theory is that Chenhalls, also a cigar smoker as seen below, was mistaken for Churchill, and that the plane on which he was travelling with Howard was shot down for this reason. Mystery surrounds the attack though, and there are other theories too.

Alfred T. Chenhalls

Ireland’s pupils: Peter Crossley-Holland

One of Ireland’s pupils at the RCM was the renowned ethnomusicologist, composer and BBC Producer Peter Crossley-Holland (1916–2001). On the face of it very different personalities, they went on to become good friends.

A sequence of letters from Ireland to Crossley-Holland is held at the Royal College of Music. They span a period from 1935–52, and contain many fascinating little observations and revelations. The letters cover a decade when Ireland was living away from London, and end when he was back in his Chelsea home following the end of the war. In the letters Ireland always refers to his former pupil by his surname, and writes fondly of many of his students.

In 1939 Crossley-Holland invited Ireland to his wedding. The latter was then living on Guernsey, and declined the invitation, while suggesting the island as a honeymoon venue – somewhat ironic given that Guernsey was invaded only 8 days later. In the following year, now living in Radlett, Ireland gives his comments on Crossley-Holland’s Piano Sonata, hoping he will not get the ‘Celtic or “bardic” fever – it does not lead to conciseness or clearness of expression or form’ (24 July 1940). His pupil was at this time working as an ARP warden. Crossley-Holland asked Ireland to be the godfather of his new son Kevin in 1941, with the composer politely deflecting the request.

In 1945 they met at the Albert Hall. Crossley-Holland was now living in Wilmslow, Ireland back in Gunter Grove. They met again in 1948, soon after which point the surviving correspondence concludes.

Source: letters from John Ireland to Peter Crossley-Holland, RCM: http://www.rcm.ac.uk/media/rcmacuk/content/documents/Letters%20from%20and%20writings%20on%20John%20Ireland.pdf

 

Singing Ireland

A number of singers are well known for their close associations with Ireland’s music, among them Gervase Elwes and George Parker, and later Peter Pears. Another to have performed his music was the contralto Muriel Foster, one of the composer’s former fellow students at the RCM and already well-known for her associations with Elgar. In June 1917, for example, Ireland gave a  concert of his works at the Wigmore Hall. As part of the programme, the Second Violin Sonata was reprised following its recent enthusiastic reception, and Miss Foster performed a number of Ireland’s songs to that date.

 

 

Ireland’s books: Observations on Popular Antiquities

One of the books on Ireland’s shelves was John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquities. This is a fascinating collection of ceremonies and customs, with all sorts of little nuggets contained within. For example, laurel was an emblem of peace, joy and victory, and Saturn was worshipped by pagans. On May Day there was a custom to go to the woods the night before, break down branches and adorn them with flowers in honour of the goddess Flora.

The folklore in this book finds its way into Ireland’s music, most notably in these two piano works:

The Boy Bishop

‘Boy bishop’ was a name for a custom common from medieval times whereby scholars/choristers elected three of their number. One had to play the role of the bishop, the other two the deacons. The ‘boy bishop’ was escorted by other boys in solemn procession to the church where he wore a mitre and presided over worship. The boys then went singing from door to door, demanding money as the Bishop’s subsidy. The custom was widespread across Europe. In England the boy bishop was elected on Saint Nicholas Day, his authority lasting until Holy Innocents’ Day.

Month’s Mind

The wistful little piano piece, Month’s Mind, is prefaced by a quote from Brand’s book, referring to an ancient custom whereby it was possible to arrange for a special service, a ‘Month’s Mind’, to be said a month after death.

John Brand (1744-1806) published his Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain: Including the Whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates Vulgares in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in 1777, the work generally abreviated to Popular Antiquities. Into it he incorporated the earlier (1725) complete Popular Antiquities of Henry Bourne. Brand’s volume was added to and revised a number of times, eventually reworked by William Hazlitt as an alphabetical dictionary in 1905, becoming Brand’s popular antiquities of Great Britain : faiths and folklore ; a dictionary of national beliefs, superstitions and popular customs, past and current, with their classical and foreign analogues, described and illustrated. It is almost certainly this edition that Ireland owned and used.

Ireland’s books: A Tale of Two Worlds

One of the books on Ireland’s shelves was A Tale of Two Worlds. A familiar name on the spine of the book was Frank Carr Nicholson, the composer’s cousin. He co-wrote this epic in 1953 with a British-Canadian friend, Georgina Sime.

It was quite a departure for Frank after his life as a scholar of German medieval literature and librarian at Edinburgh University, part of his new life in retirement in the Lake District, he having returned to the place of his Nicholson roots.

Frank wrote to Ireland in August 1953:

…when one has retired from professional life it is nice to have some congenial employment to which one can apply oneself more or less steadily. Since I came to Keswick I have certainly never found time hang heavily, and one of my main and constant occupations has been to collaborate with an old friend of mine, Miss Sime, in writing of one kind or another. We got a long-an enormously long!- novel published a couple of months ago-I wonder if you would at all care to have a look at it. Probably you have quite eschewed novels long ago ( as I too have done for many years past so far as reading the, is concerned!) but you might possibly like to sample this one in an idle moment, for there is a good deal about music in it that might conceivably entertain you. 

The book is certainly interesting, even a compelling read, focused on generations of a Viennese family, some of whom emigrate to Canada to find new lives. Music is a central theme, and the style of the writing is reminiscent of the Australian author Nevil Shute. He was extremely popular at that time, having recently published his bestselling A Town Like Alice. Perhaps the most arresting aspect of A Tale of Two Worlds is the focus on ‘family’, an increasing preoccupation of the composer, who was trying to unearth his own, elusive relatives. It’s also an oddly moving book, ending as it does with a reflection on the human frailties and incomplete stories of the people who constitute families, everyone ‘trying, trying, and none of them ever getting at the truth-at what this particular life on earth means for each of us’ (p.682).

Sources:

British Library: Letter from Frank Nicholson in John Ireland: Personal Correspondence, MS Mus. 1749/2/10

Nicholson, F. and Sime, G. (1953) A Tale of Two Worlds, Frome and London, Butler and Tanner.

Ethel Ireland at the RAM

As has already been mentioned on this blog, John was not the only family member with musical talents. His sister Ethel enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in February 1891, a couple of years before her brother entered the RCM. Her home address was registered as Mauldeth Road, Fallowfield, Manchester; her London address was in South Hampstead. Her fee guarantor was her ageing father Alexander. Ethel was principally there as a pianist, also taking second study violin, changing from singing. Other subjects included German, Italian and elocution. Her studies were short-lived, however, and registers show that she left in 1892. When her younger brother John came to London she did, however, share lodgings with him..

Ethel studied piano with Henry R. Eyers, a well-known and highly regarded teacher at that time, perhaps now best remembered for his many editions of music by such as Clementi and Raff. Eyers died in 1919, by then a man of great authority and seniority, as recalled in a brief tribute:

henry-eyers

 

With thanks to Ilse Woloszko, Library Assistant, RAM, for providing this information.

Other source: The Musical Times, Vol. 60, No. 913 (Mar. 1, 1919), p. 120