Music appreciation 2 articles

Music appreciation 2 group articles

John Ireland

John Nicholson Ireland is an English composer, known for the instrumental work ‘The Holy Boy’, the hymn tune ‘Love Unknown’ and the choral motet ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’. He was born in Bowden, Cheshire on 13th August 1897 to a 70 year old father, Alexander, who was Editor and publisher of the Newspaper the ‘Manchester Examiner and Times’ and a 40 year old mother, who was his second wife and is best known for editing the letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle and writing her biography. He was the youngest of five children and exhibited an early musical talent, which his mother encouraged.

Ireland did not have a happy childhood. His mother suffered from a heart condition and was often confined to bed. It is reputed that Ireland’s siblings punished him for the slightest misdemeanour. At the age of 13 Ireland took himself up to London, telling his mother he was going to the Manchester Motor Show, where he persuaded the Royal College of Music to take him on as a student and where his sister Ethel was already a student. In September, 1893, six weeks before his 14th birthday and shortly before his mother’s death Ireland entered the Royal College of Music.

Ireland studied Piano and Composition and at the age of 16 was awarded a fellowship of the Royal College of Organists, the youngest student ever to do so. Fellow students were Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst. Not long after the end of the First World War, he joined the staff at the Royal College of Music as Professor of Composition, a position he held for many years, one of his pupils being Benjamin Britten. By 1920 he was regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation having been taught by Sir Charles Villiers Stamford, who had a reputation for teaching by discouragement rather than encouragement. He was strongly influenced by Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Bartok and from these influences he developed his own brand of ‘English Impressionism’ related to French and Russian models than to the folk-song style then prevailing in English Music. He began to make a name for himself as a composer of songs and chamber music. His Violin Sonata No. 1 won first prize in an International competition as did his Violin Sonata No. 2, although his Piano Concerto is considered among his best works.

Some of Ireland’s compositions were influenced by landscapes. ‘The Island Spell’ and ‘Sarnia’ were inspired by a visit to Jersey and ‘An Island Sequence ‘ by his visit to Guernsey. His symphonic rhapsody ‘Mai-Dun’ was influenced by historical images of the South Downs and his ‘Cello Sonata in G Minor’ by the countryside of the Sussex Downs. Ireland produced several hymns and church pieces that became well known including ‘Vexilla Regis’ written at the age of 19. The majority of his output consists of piano miniatures and of songs with piano often setting them to the poetry of Thomas Hardy, A.E. Houseman, Christina Rossetti, John Masefield, Rupert Brooke and others.

It has been said that Ireland was a self-critical, introspective man haunted by memories of his sad childhood. In 1953 he retired to Rock in West Sussex where he died of heart failure at the age of 82 on the 12th June, 1962 and buried in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin in Shipley, West Sussex.

Maura Chapman

Group report

Johann Sebastian Bach

After almost two years of being unable to meet, as Music Appreciation does not lend itself to Zoom, we had our first meeting on 22nd October when we had a presentation on Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Born into a musical family, his father taught him the violin. When he lost both his parents at the age of ten, his older brother Johann Christoph Bach, taught him the organ. During his lifetime he was more famous as an organist than a composer, although he produced over 1,000 compositions including his well-known Brandenburg Concertos and the Well-Tempered Clavier, written as a collection of keyboard pieces to help students learn various keyboard techniques and methods. He is now considered to be the best composer of the Baroque era and one of the most important figures in classical music.

Johann Adolph Hasse

During our November meeting, we had a presentation on another composer of the Baroque era that of Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) a German composer, singer and music teacher. During his lifetime he was immensely popular particularly for his Baroque Operas written in the Italian style. Apart from composing 63 Operas he produced 20 Masses and Requiems, 90 Cantatas, 80 Flute Sonatas and Concertos and hundreds of other Instrumental works totalling about 1,635 compositions.

In spite of his massive popularity during his lifetime, after his death, unlike Bach, his reputation quickly declined and his music lay relatively unperformed. The Group agreed Hasse’s music deserves far better recognition its chief characteristics being melodic beauty and formal balance.

Kiri Te Kanawa

In January, we looked at the life and work of the opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa. Born in Gisborne, New Zealand, to a Maori married butcher and an Irish waitress she was adopted by Nell and Thomas Te Kanawa. She received her initial formal training from her school singing teacher before enrolling at the London Opera Centre in 1966 without an audition. In 1970 she was awarded a three year contract as junior Principal at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

She started her singing career as a mezzo-soprano but developed into a full lyric soprano and is best known for her repertoire of works by Mozart and Richard Strauss. She sang Handel’s ‘Let The Bright Seraphim’ at Prince Charles' and Lady Diana’s wedding, and Happy Birthday to her Majesty the Queen at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in 2006.

Her recording of Strauss’s ‘Nuns’ Chorus’ was the first Gold record produced in New Zealand. She acquired a handful of prestigious honours and awards including the OBE, DBE, Order of New Zealand and Order of Australia. Now retired, she lives in New Zealand running a Foundation which supports young aspiring NZ singers and musicians.

Niccolo Paganini

In February, we examined the life and work of Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) an Italian Violinist and Composer. He was the most celebrated Violin Virtuoso of his time and even regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all times. He was one of the first solo Violinists to perform publicly without sheet music, memorising everything.

On some occasions, he would also sever two strings and play the piece on the remaining strings. He had very long thin fingers, which allowed him to play three octaves in one hand span and this was due to Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder. He was also reputed to have the ability to play at incredible speeds i.e. 12 notes per second. This was attributed to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a disorder which causes increased flexibility and a lack of co-ordination. He was a sickly man for most of his life giving his last public performance at the age of 54, dying of larynx cancer at the age of 58. Of his many compositions his 24 Caprices are among the best known.

Maura Chapman

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 newsletter.

Group report

So far, we have been unable to meet this year. Whilst some Groups have been able to meet on Zoom, Music Appreciation does not lend itself to Zoom Meetings. Andrea has been busy researching Bach and put together an excellent programme, which we should all enjoy when we are able to meet as a Group again. Last year, we had a very varied programme exploring music by Elgar, Clara Schumann, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, King Henry V111, Johann Strauss (both the Younger and the Elder) and Bizet. In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”

All Group members will be contacted as soon as we are able to meet again.

Sue Humphrey and Maura Chapman.

This is an article published in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter .

Group report

Our group continues to meet on the fourth Friday of each month at 2pm, usually at Maura’s home.

We normally choose a composer to discuss and one of us will give a presentation on his music. Often we choose a composer whose birthday falls on the day we are meeting and we have discovered some very interesting “unknown to us” composers in this way.

We discussed the music of Henry VIII on whose birthday we met. We were all surprised to learn how much music he composed and we listened to several pieces played on instruments which were used in his time. Apparently he would ask his musicians, of whom he had many, to play for him whilst he entertained his lady friends in his bedchamber!!

None of us were surprised to learn that he did not in fact write the music for Greensleeves, though there is some evidence that he might have written the words for Anne Boleyn! We enjoyed listening to the song anyway!!

Sue Humphrey/Maura Chapman

This is an article published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter

Group report

This is an article published in the Summer 2018 newsletter ….

During the year we have looked at the life and works of composers such as Scarlatti, Elgar, Swiss composers, Handel, Shubert, the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and Bortniansky.

Bortniansky was a new name for us and we spent a pleasant afternoon listening to pieces from his full and varied range of music. Born in the Ukraine in 1751 he was regarded as one of the most prominent Russian composers of church music producing over 100 religious works, sacred concertos, cantatas and hymns. He spent 10 years in Venice where he wrote a number of instrumental works including operas, symphonies, chamber music and piano sonatas. He is known for the famous hymn ‘How Glorious is our Lord’ which for a long time was the Russian National Anthem. In 1881, Tchaikovsky, at the request of his music publisher, edited and made piano solo arrangements of Bortniansky’s complete church music, which was published in ten volumes. When asked to arrange more of Bortniansky’s choral works in 1883, it is reputed that Tchaikovsky declined complaining that he found the works poor in content and monotonous, which caused him from time to time to sink into profound despair. Tchaikovsky might have been a great musician but the Group thought his opinion of Bortniansky’s music flawed as we found his music most enjoyable and entertaining.

The Group meets on the 4th Friday of the month at 2.00 p.m.

Maura Chapman

Group report

This is an article published in the Summer 2017 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter...

The Group continues to explore a variety of music from less well known composers as well as the more famous.

This year we have studied music by Mozart including features that we didn't know about him e.g. Mozart's music has been credited with helping those with epilepsy, boosting the milk production of cows, and boosting the IQ of unborn babies. A Swiss sewage treatment centre has now claimed that Mozart can help microbes break down sewage waste, the Centre's preferred composition being The Magic Flute! We have also looked at compositions by Shostakovich, Paganini, Willem Hendrik Zwart, a Dutch organist and composer, William Bolcom, an American pianist and composer and the works of the English composers Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Arnold Bax, Sir Granville Bantock, Ivor Gurney and George Butterworth. We have also studied the woodwind instruments in detail.

The musical interests of the Group are wide and varied and any member who would like to join us will be most welcome.

We meet on the 4th Friday of the month at 2.00pm

Contact either Sue Humphrey or Maura Chapman