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