One of the books on Ireland’s shelves was the curiously-named Music for the man who enjoys Hamlet, by R.H. Haggin. Haggin starts from the premise that Hamlet is the deepest expression of poetic feeling and explores the idea that those who appreciate the play can go on to appreciate music. Haggin centres his ambitious little book on Beethoven, and in particular on Opus 111.
It’s an interesting attempt to teach listening skills, as reviewed in 1948:
An earlier review of 1945 liked this book very much, particularly for the charm of its presentation: ‘Almost never didactic or condescending, he communicates simply and persuasively his sane enthusiasm of wide experience to arouse the latent response of the intelligent novice, in a style which suggests a stimulating conversation rather than a lecture’.
Clearly Ireland liked books of this type, as he owned a large number of didactic works on all sorts of musical topics.
Reviews: Music for the Man Who Enjoys ‘Hamlet’ by B. H. Haggin, Music & Letters, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jul., 1948), pp. 298-299 and by Philip Greeley Clapp, The Kenyon Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring, 1945), pp. 328-330.
John Ireland is one of many English composers drawn to the county of Sussex (both East and West).
Home of Parry
In addition to Ireland living at Rock Mill, Washington, others with Sussex associations include:
- Bax, Arnold: Storrington
- Brian, Havergal: Brighton
- Bridge, Frank: Friston
- Coates, Albert: Selsey
- Elgar, Edward: Fittleworth
- Gipps, Ruth: Bexhill-on-Sea
- Harrison, Julius: Hastings
- Murdoch, William: Bognor Regis
- Parry, Hubert: Rustington
- Reeves, Sims: Worthing
- Sammons, Albert: Bognor Regis
- Scott, Cyril: Eastbourne
- Turnbull, Percy: Pulborough
- Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Rottingdean
In 1831 Ireland’s great grandfather, the Reverend Mark Nicholson, purchased a new home in Clifton, Bristol. Here he lived along with two of his sons – William and Mark – and his three daughters, Elizabeth (Iddy), Ann and Lucy. The house was one of a fine row of Georgian houses, with a small park immediately opposite. The terrace survives largely intact, with fine trees in the green space in front as seen below. When the Reverend died in 1838, the children chose not to remain in what was never a particularly happy family home. The house was sold in 1839. William and Iddy eventually emigrated to Ohio, Mark to Melbourne, while Ann and Lucy married and relocated to Liverpool and Monmouth respectively.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.