Spirit of England - The Arts - Music


Sir Edward William Elgar
Baronet OM GCVO

Probably one of the most underrated composers of the nineteenth and twentieth century - and on a par with Wagner, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler.
Remembered now mainly for his jingoistic marches and oratorios, his true genius lies in his Symphonies, concertos, occasional pieces ('Sospiri', 'Sersum Corda' etc) and the 'Enigma', 'Musicmakers' and 'The Spirit of England'.
Elgar is undoubtedly the greatest of all English composers.

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet OM, GCVO (2 June 1857 – 23 February 1934) was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire.
Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the 'Enigma Variations', the 'Pomp and Circumstance Marches', concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies.
He also composed choral works, including 'The Dream of Gerontius', chamber music and songs.
He was appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1924.
Although Elgar is often regarded as a typically English composer, most of his musical influences were not from England but from continental Europe.
He felt himself to be an outsider, not only musically, but socially.
In musical circles dominated by academics, he was a self-taught composer; in Protestant Britain, his Roman Catholicism was regarded with suspicion in some quarters; and in the class-conscious society of Victorian and Edwardian Britain, he was acutely sensitive about his humble origins even after he achieved recognition.
He nevertheless married the daughter of a senior British army officer.
She inspired him both musically and socially, but he struggled to achieve success until his forties, when after a series of moderately successful works his 'Enigma Variations' (1899) became immediately popular in Britain and overseas.

He followed the Variations with a choral work, 'The Dream of Gerontius' (1900), (see autographed orchestral score left) based on a Roman Catholic text by Cardinal John henry Newman, that caused some disquiet in the Anglican establishment in Britain, but it became, and has remained, a core repertory work in Britain and elsewhere.
His later full-length religious choral works were well received but have not entered the regular repertory.
The first of his 'Pomp and Circumstance Marches' (1901) is well-known in the English-speaking world.
In his fifties, Elgar composed a symphony and a violin concerto that were immensely successful. His second symphony and his cello concerto did not gain immediate public popularity and took many years to achieve a regular place in the concert repertory of British orchestras.
Elgar's music came, in his later years, to be seen as appealing chiefly to English audiences.
His stock remained low for a generation after his death.
It began to revive significantly in the 1960s, helped by new recordings of his works.
Some of his works have, in recent years, been taken up again internationally, but the music remains more played in Britain than elsewhere.
Elgar has been described as the first composer to take the gramophone seriously.
Between 1914 and 1925, he conducted a series of recordings of his works.
The introduction of the microphone in 1925 made far more accurate sound reproduction possible, and Elgar made new recordings of most of his major orchestral works and excerpts from 'The Dream of Gerontius'.
These recordings were reissued on LP record in the 1970s and on CD in the 1990s.

Peter's first Recording of Elgar's 'Dream of Gerontius'


Sir Arthur Sullivan

'Because I fly in realms above,
In tendency to fall in love,
Resemble I the amorous dove ?
Resemble I the amorous dove ?

Oh, amorous dove ! Type of Ovidius Naso !
This heart of mine is soft as thine,
Although I dare not say so !'

Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer.
He is best known for his operaticcollaborations with librettist W. S. Gilbert, including such continually popular works as 'H.M.S. Pinafore', 'The Pirates of Penzance' and 'The Mikado'.
Sullivan's artistic output included 23 operas, 13 major orchestral works, eight choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous hymns and other church pieces, songs, parlour ballads, part songs, carols, and piano and chamber pieces.
Apart from his comic operas with Gilbert, Sullivan is best known for some of his hymns and parlour songs, including "Onward Christian Soldiers", "The Absent-Minded Beggar", and "The Lost Chord".
His most critically praised pieces include his 'Irish Symphony', his 'Overture di Ballo', 'The Martyr of Antioch', 'The Golden Legend', and the Savoy Operas, the finest of which is 'Iolanthe'.
Sullivan's only grand opera, 'Ivanhoe', was initially highly successful, but it has been little heard since his death.


Sir Hubert Parry

Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet (27 February 1848 – 7 October 1918) was an English composer, teacher and historian of music.
Parry's first major works appeared in 1880.
As a composer he is best known for the choral song "Jerusalem", the coronation anthem "I was glad", the hymn tune "Repton", which sets the words "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind", and the choral work 'Blest Pair of Sirens'.
He was director of the Royal College of Music from 1895 until his death and was also professor of music at the University of Oxford from 1900 to 1908.
He also wrote several books about music and music history.
Some contemporaries rated him as the finest English composer since Henry Purcell, but his academic duties prevented him from devoting all his energies to composition.


Gustav Holst

Gustav Theodore Holst (born Gustavus Theodore von Holst, 21 September 1874 – 25 May 1934) was an English composer.
He is most famous for his orchestral suite 'The Planets'.
Having studied at the Royal College of Music in London, his early work was influenced by Grieg, Wagner, Richard Strauss and fellow student Ralph Vaughan Williams, and later, through Vaughan Williams, the music of Ravel.
The combined influence of Ravel, Hindu spiritualism and English folk tunes enabled Holst to forge his own style.
Holst's music is well known for unconventional use of metre and haunting melodies.
Holst composed almost 200 works, including operas, ballets, choral hymns and songs.
An enthusiastic educator, Holst became music master at St Paul's Girls' School in 1905 and director of music at Morley College in 1907, continuing in both posts until retirement.
He was the brother of Hollywood actor Ernest Cossart and father of the composer and conductor Imogen Holst, who wrote a biography of him in 1938.
He was originally named Gustavus Theodor von Holst, but he dropped the "von" from his name in response to anti-German sentiment in Britainduring World War I, making it official by deed poll in 1918.

The Ultimate Version of Holst's 'Planets Suite'
conducted by Sir Malcolm Sergeant
Decca Ace of Clubs (ffrr)
(Peter's first 12" Long Playing Classical Record)

Gustav Holst - Hymn of Jesus
Holst the Gnostic and Mystic 


Frederick Delius

Frederick Theodore Albert Delius CH (29 January 1862 – 10 June 1934) was an English composer. Born in Bradford, Yorkshire, to a prosperous mercantile family of German extraction, he resisted attempts to recruit him to commerce.
He was sent to Florida in the United States in 1884 to manage an orange plantation, where he neglected his managerial duties and began composing.
After a brief period of formal musical study in Germany beginning in 1886, he embarked on a full-time career as a composer in Paris and then in nearby Grez-sur-Loing, where he and his wife Jelka lived (except during the First World War) for the rest of their lives.
Delius's first successes came in Germany, where Hans Haym and other conductors promoted his music from the late 1890s.
In Delius's native England, it was 1907 before his music made regular appearances in concert programmes, after Thomas Beecham took it up.
Beecham staged Delius's opera 'A Village Romeo and Juliet' at Covent Garden in 1910 and mounted a six-day Delius festival in London in 1929, as well as making gramophone recordings of many of Delius's works.
After 1918 Delius became paralysed and blind, but completed some late compositions between 1928 and 1932 with the aid of an amanuensis, Eric Fenby.
The lyricism in Delius's early compositions reflected both the music he had heard in America and the influences of European composers such asEdvard Grieg and Richard Wagner.
As his skills matured, he developed a style uniquely his own, characterised by his individual orchestration and his uses of chromatic harmony.
Delius's music has been only intermittently popular, and often subject to critical attacks.
The Delius Society, formed in 1962 by his more dedicated followers, continues to promote knowledge of the composer's life and works, and sponsors the annual Delius Prize competition for young musicians.

Although English music, for his 'A Mass of Life' Delius set excerpts of Nietzsche's 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' - in German - to some of his finest music


Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams OM 12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958) was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores.
He was also a collector of English folk music and song which influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, containing many folk song arrangements set as hymn tunes, in addition to several original compositions.
Vaughan Williams's music has often been said to be characteristically English, in the same way as that of Gustav Holst, Frederick Delius and George Butterworth.
His style expresses a deep regard for and fascination with folk tunes, the variations upon which can convey the listener from the down-to-earth (which he always tried to remain in his daily life) to the ethereal.
Simultaneously the music shows patriotism toward England in the subtlest form, engendered by a feeling for ancient landscapes and a person's small yet not entirely insignificant place within them.
His earlier works sometimes show the influence of Maurice Ravel, his teacher for three months in Paris in 1908.

Cover of the Score of Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Act V, Scene 1 'The Merchant of Venice'

as arranged by Ralf Vaughan Williams and set to music

'Serenade to Music'

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb that thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear,
And draw her home with music.
Music! hark!
It is your music of the house.
Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.
Silence bestows that virtue on it
How many things by season season'd are
To their right praise and true perfection!
Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion
And would not be awak'd. Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.

click below for

History, Personalities, Art, Architecture, Design,
relating to Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic England



Eric was born in Hucknall in Nottinghamshire to William Harrison Coates (d. 1935), a surgeon, and his wife, Mary Jane Gwynne, hailing from Usk in Monmouthshire.
After studying at home with a governess, Eric enrolled (1906) at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he received viola lessons from Lionel Tertis and studied composition with Frederick Corder. 
From 1910 he played in the Queen's Hall Orchestra under Henry J. Wood, becoming principal violist in 1912,
He had an early success with the overture 'The Merrymakers' (1922), but more popular was the 'London Suite' (1933).
The last movement of this, 'Knightsbridge', was used by the BBC to introduce their radio programme 'In Town Tonight'.
In Town Tonight ran for 27 years and Eric Coates became England's best known composer at home and abroad.
'In Town Tonight'
Coates is also well known for his contribution to the film score for 'The Dam Busters' (1954); he composed the famous main title march.
He was unwilling to write the entire score when asked by the film's producers, but warmed to the idea of writing a signature march around which the rest of the film's score was based - in fact, he submitted a piece that he had recently completed, so the famous 'Dam Busters March' was not itself composed with the film in mind.
Possibly his finest, but little known work is his 'Saxo-Rhapsody' - a miniature concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra.
Eric Coates's 'Saxo-Rhapsody ' was first performed at the Folkestone Musical Festival in September, 1936, and was broadcast on January 16 last, the soloist on both occasions being Sigurd Rascher, for whom the piece was written.

Amongst his early champions was Sir Edward Elgar.
Coates died in Chichester, having suffered a stroke, and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.

 'Here we had a professional musician who did his own orchestrations, who was an expert, who had that rare quality, a melodic gift, which hardly exists in modern music. He was a charming and most lovable person.'
                          Sir Malcom Sargent



Sir Harold Malcolm Watts Sargent (29 April 1895 – 3 October 1967) was an English conductor, organist and composer widely regarded as Britain's leading conductor of choral works.
The musical ensembles with which he was associated included the Ballets Russes, the Huddersfield Choral Society, the Royal Choral Society, the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and the London Philharmonic, Hallé, Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras.
Sargent was held in high esteem by choirs and instrumental soloists.
He was co-founder of the London Philharmonic, was the first conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic as a full-time ensemble, and played an important part in saving the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from disbandment in the 1960s.

Sir Malcolm Sargent Conducting the Last Night of the Proms - 1954

As chief conductor of London's internationally famous summer music festival the 'Proms'  (Promanade Concerts) from 1948 to 1967, Sargent was one of the best-known English conductors.
When he took over the 'Proms' from their founder, Sir Henry Wood, he and two assistants conducted the two-month season between them.
By the time he died, he was assisted by a large international roster of guest conductors.
At the outbreak of World War II, Sargent turned down an offer of a major musical directorship in Australia and returned to the UK to bring music to as many people as possible as his contribution to national morale. His fame extended beyond the concert hall: to the British public, he was a familiar broadcaster in BBC radio talk shows, and generations of Gilbert and Sullivan devotees have known his recordings of the most popular Savoy Operas.
He toured widely throughout the world and was noted for his skill as a conductor, his championship of British composers, and his debonair appearance, which won him the nickname "Flash Harry."
Sargent underwent surgery in July 1967 for pancreatic cancer but made a valedictory appearance at the end of the last night of the Proms in September that year, handing over the baton to his successor, Colin Davis. He died two weeks later, at the age of 72.

The Ultimate Version of Holst's 'Planets Suite'
conducted by Sir Malcolm Sergeant
Decca Ace of Clubs (ffrr)
(Peter's first 12" Long Playing Classical Record)



Michael Gordon Oldfield (born 15 May 1953) is an English multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, working a style that blends progressive rock, folk, ethnic or world music, classical music, electronic music, New Age, and more recently, dance.
His music is often elaborate and complex in nature.
He is best known for his 1973 composition 'Tubular Bells', which launched Virgin Records.
Oldfield's parents are Raymond Oldfield, a general practitioner, and Maureen Liston, a nurse.
His sister Sally and brother Terry are also successful musicians and have appeared on several of Mike's albums.
Mike Oldfield was born in Reading, Berkshire, and he attended St. Joseph's Convent School, Highlands Junior School, St. Edward's preparatory school, and Presentation College in Reading.
When he was 13 he moved with his parents to Harold Wood, Essex, and attended Hornchurch grammar school, where he took just one GCE examination, in English, as he had already begun his career in music.
Like 'Tubular Bells', 'Hergest Ridge' is a two-movement instrumental piece, this time evoking scenes from Oldfield's Herefordshire country retreat.
It was followed in 1975 by the pioneering world music piece 'Ommadawn'.

'Music of the Spheres'
Undoubtedly his finest work, in the true tradition of English classical music is 'Music of the Spheres', completed in 2008.
Karl Jenkins assisted with the orchestration.
In the first week of release the album topped the UK Classical chart and reached number 9 on the main UK Album Chart.
A single, "Spheres", featuring a demo version of pieces from the album was released digitally. The album was nominated for a Classical Brit Award, the NS&I Best Album of 2009.


Paul McCartney
James Paul McCartney - (born 18 June 1942) is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer.
Paul McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles in the United Kingdom.
McCartney gained worldwide fame as a member of The Beatles, alongside John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
McCartney and Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and wrote some of the most popular songs in the history of rock music.
(see left - George Harrison, John lennon, and Paul McCartney)
McCartney was born in Walton Hospital in Liverpool, England, where his mother, Mary (née Mohan), had worked as a nurse in the maternity ward.
He has one brother, Michael, born 7 January 1944.
McCartney was baptised Roman Catholic but was raised non-denominationally: his mother was Roman Catholic and his father James, or "Jim" McCartney, was a Protestant turned agnostic.
In 1947, he began attending Stockton Wood Road Primary School.
He then attended the Joseph Williams Junior School and passed the 11-plus exam in 1953 with three others out of the 90 examinees, thus gaining admission to the Liverpool Institute.

In 1954, while taking the bus from his home in the suburb of Speke to the Institute, he met George Harrison (see right), who lived nearby.
Passing the exam meant that McCartney and Harrison could go to a grammar school rather than a secondary modern school, which the majority of pupils attended until they were eligible to work, but as grammar school pupils, they had to find new friends.
In 1955, the McCartney family moved to 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton.
On 31 October 1956, Mary McCartney died of an embolism after a mastectomy operation to stop the spread of her breast cancer.
The early loss of his mother later connected McCartney with John Lennon, whose mother Julia died after being struck by a car when Lennon was 17.
McCartney's father was a trumpet player and pianist who had led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s and encouraged his two sons to be musical.
As he was left-handed, McCartney found right-handed guitars difficult to play, but when he saw a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert, he realised that Whitman played left-handed with his guitar strung the opposite way to a right-handed player.
McCartney wrote his first song on the Zenith, and also played his father's Framus Spanish guitar when writing early songs with Lennon.
He later learned to play the piano and wrote his second song, "When I'm Sixty-Four".
On his father's advice, he took music lessons, but since he preferred to learn 'by ear' he never paid much attention to them.

At the age of 15, McCartney met John Lennon (see left) and The Quarrymen at the St. Peter's Church Hall fête in Woolton on 6 July 1957.
He formed a close working relationship with Lennon and they collaborated writing many songs.
Harrison joined the group in early 1958 as lead guitarist, followed in early 1960 by Lennon's art school friend, Stuart Sutcliffe on bass.
They chose "The Beatles" as the name of the group in mid-August 1960, and recruited Pete Best at short-notice to become their drummer for an imminent engagement in Hamburg.
During extended stays over the next two years, The Beatles performed as a resident group in a number of Hamburg clubs.
On returns to Liverpool they played at the Cavern club.
Prior to the end of the residency, Sutcliffe left the band, so McCartney, reluctantly, became The Beatles' bass player.
Epstein, the Beatles manager, negotiated a record contract for the group with Parlophone in May 1962.
After replacing Best with Ringo Starr on drums, The Beatles became popular in the UK in 1963 and in the US in 1964.
The Beatles gave their last commercial concert at the end of their 1966 US tour.
They continued to work in the recording studio from 1966 until their break-up in 1970.
In the eight years from 1962 to 1970, the group had released twenty-four UK singles and twelve studio albums, often released in different configurations in the USA and other countries.

But - as Salvador Dali said - very little of significance happens after the age of sixteen.

'Once there was a way to get back homeward 
Once there was a way to get back home 
Sleep pretty darling do not cry 
And I will sing a lullabye '


Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive psychedelic and essentially English rock music.
Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows.
Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially successful and influential rock music groups of all time.
They have sold over 200 million albums worldwide, including 74.5 million certified units in the United States.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Since then they have continued to enjoy worldwide fame.
The band originally consisted of students Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and Syd Barrett.
Founded in 1965, they first became popular playing in London's underground music scene in the late 1960s.
Under Barrett's leadership they released two charting singles, "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play", and a successful début album, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' (1967).
Guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd as its fifth member in December 1967, several months prior to Barrett's departure from the group due to the latter's deteriorating mental health.
Following the loss of their principal songwriter, Pink Floyd bassist and vocalist Roger Waters became the band's lyricist and conceptual leader, with Gilmour assuming lead guitar, taking on most of the band's music composition, and sharing lead vocals.
Pink Floyd subsequently achieved worldwide critical and commercial success with 'The Dark Side of the Moon', 'Wish You Were Here', 'Animals'  'The Wall' and 'The Final Cut'.


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