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John Ireland: John Ireland (b. Bowdon, 13 Aug 1879; d. Sussex, June 1962).
John Ireland was born in Cheshire, in 1879. His father's family came from Fifeshire and his mother's from Cumberland; both were writers, and his mother was an authority on Jane Welsh Carlyle. Carlyle and Emerson often came to their house as well as other writers. John Ireland's sisters used to play the piano, and his mother took a keen interest in music. Both John Ireland's parents died when he was about fourteen, and he came to London in 1893 to study at the Royal College of Music, earning his living as an organist. For four years he studied piano with Frederick Cliffe and theory with James Higgs: in 1897 Stanford took him as a composition pupil. He was a contemporary of Vaughan Williams and Hoist, and later of Frank Bridge. He had already begun to write music before going to the College, but in later years he discarded all his works written before 1908.
After leaving the College in 1901 he lived mainly in London, with occasional visits to West Sussex and the Channel Islands. He took his degree of Bachelor of Music at Durham University in 1905, and from 1904 until 1926 he was organist of St Luke's, Chelsea. He also taught composition students for many years at the Royal College of Music, and his pupils included E. J. Moeran, Alan Bush, Benjamin Britten (who was sent to him by Frank Bridge), Richard Arnell and the present writer. His music, to some extent inspired by French models - though. much of his chromatic harmony is nearer to Scriabin - helped to liberate English music from its previous Teutonic domination. John Ireland mainly made his reputation in his early days by his chamber music, beginning with the Phantasy Trio of 1908, piano music and songs; his setting of John Masefield's Sea Fever became immensely popular and was included in a London variety programme at one time. His first orchestral work, The Forgotten Rite of 1913, was one of several works in which John Ireland sought to evoke in music the mysteries and rituals of ancient British civilisations: in this he was considerably influenced by the writings of Arthur Machen.
John Ireland's most successful period dates from the first performance of his second violin sonata of 19 17; from this time onwards he was considered as one of the leading British composers, and the 1920s he produced a number of important works, including the symphonic rhapsody Mai Dun (1921), inspired by the ruined Maiden Castle in Dorset, the piano concerto of 1930, which rapidly became popular and still remains in the repertoire, and the Legend for piano and orchestra (1933), suggested by an old track, leading to the ruin of an ancient church, which was reserved exclusively for lepers. He also wrote several song cycles, subtle and sensitive settings of English poems, of which The Land of Lost Content and We'll to the Woods No More (Housman) and two sets of Thomas Hardy songs strike an individual note in British music. In 1937 he was commissioned to write a choral work in honour of the Coronation of King George VI, and set John Addington Symonds' 'These Things Shall Be', a Utopian poem in praise of the brotherhood of man; the score contains a concealed quotation from the Internationale. Most of John Ireland's many sets of piano pieces - he was an excellent pianist himself- date from the inter-war period.
John Ireland was in the Channel Islands when World War II broke out; he managed to escape before the German occupation in 1940, and after a period of living in Essex he returned to London after the war. His later works include the lyrical Fantasy Sonata for clarinet and piano (1943) and the amusing overture Satyricon (1946). He spent his last years in a windmill in Sussex, dying there in June 1962 in his eighty-second year. All who knew him remember him with affection.
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