Go to Site Index for Ivor Gurney, Poet Composer
Ivor Gurney in 1915 - Go to Home Page

Gurney Lost and Found
Manuscripts Recently Rediscovered
Songs & Piano Pieces
Orchestral War Elegy

Early Gurney Music Uncovered from Down Under
Gurney’s Missing Piano Manuscripts Returned to City
By Phil Norris (phil.norris@gloscitizen.co.uk) Gloucester Citizen © 2002, Used by Permission.

    The following article from the Gloucester Citizen, dated January 30, 2002, gives details of a gift to the Gurney archive of a number of Ivor’s previously unknown piano and song compositions dating from 1908 and 1909.  The Society Committee has agreed to offer Mr. Hayward (eldest son of Leslie Hayward and Dorothy Evelyn Gurney) and his sisters, May Burrage and Shirley Armstrong, honorary membership of the Society in recognition of their generous gift.  The music in question is being assessed by Richard Carder, Michael Hurd and Ian Venables.  Their comments will be published in a future Society Journal.

    A Documentary on Gloucester poet and composer Ivor Gurney is to be broadcast as some of his recently-discovered music scores are prepared for possible performance.  The BBC2 programme Long Remembered Hills will feature one of Gurney’s inspirational places — Chosen Hill, a popular haunt for writers in the early 20th Century.
    It is linked to a new Open University music course to feature the lives and works of Gloucester-born Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) and Lydney-born composer Herbert Howells (1892-1983).  Appearing in the programme is the chairman of The Ivor Gurney Society, Anthony Boden, who has been in contact with Gurney’s nephew Jack Hayward, who lives in Australia.  Mr. Hayward has  a small collection of original manuscripts of piano pieces which were composed in 1907 and 1908 and which are unknown to Gurney scholars in the UK.
    Mr. Boden said: “I asked Mr. Hayward if it would be possible for photocopies to be sent to England for inclusion in the Gurney Archive at Gloucester City Library.  “To my great delight, Mr. Hayward wrote to say that he and his sisters had agreed not just to send copies but to sent the original manuscripts.
    “They believed the correct place for them was with the rest of the collection.  All Gurney enthusiasts will be excited by their extremely generous gesture, and these important piano pieces are now being studied by experts with a view to future performance and publication.”
    The pieces were written when Gurney was a young man studying music at Gloucester Cathedral and before he went to the Royal College of Music.
    Mr. Boden said it would depend on the quality of the work whether they were performed — but scholars would find them interesting because they show the development of the young composer.  Gurney’s star has risen in the past two decades following a successful biography and anthology of his poetry.
    The film Long Remembered Hills features footage shot on Chosen Hill, Gloucester Cathedral, St. Mary de Lode Church, and Wainlodes Hill, Twigworth.  It will be shown twice a year for the next five years and will be broadcast for the first time on BBC2 at 12:30 a.m. next Tuesday [February 5, 2002].  Chosen Hill was also an inspiration for other artists, including composer Herbert Howells and poetry F. W. Harvey.

Performed Once and Tucked Away
Gurney’s ‘Lost’ War Elegy is Found
By Pamela Blevins  © 2002

    We can credit Marion Scott with providing the clue that has led to the discovery of Ivor Gurney’s ‘lost’ orchestral composition, War Elegy.
    I was recently at the Library of Congress in Washington reading microfilm of The Christian Science Monitor in my on-going effort to copy all of Scott’s reviews and criticism appearing in that newspaper from 1919 to 1933 (and in other publications).  Scott wrote on many musical topics for the Monitor, a daily newspaper, but it is her twice-weekly collection of reviews of London concerts and events that account for the greater portion of her contribution.
    As I reeled through 1921, I came to the July 16 edition where I found her review of “Recent Music in London Rehearsal”.  It was an account of The Patron’s Fund rehearsal that had been held at the Royal College of Music on June 16 when the only known performance of Gurney’s War Elegy was given.  The concert was conducted by Adrian Boult with the then-new Queen’s Hall Orchestra.  After that the work seemed to disappear and was considered missing or, worse, lost.
    The Elegy shared the program with Thomas Dunhill’s symphony, Hugh Bradford’s fox-trot for 26-players, Eric Fogg’s The Golden Valley and R. O. Morris’ Novelette for orchestra, which Scott described collectively as ‘a hopeful crop of compositions’, adding “Though none was impeccable, the general level stood high, and their virtues were positive as well as negative”.  She cited their sincerity, purpose and “illumined” beauty in the positive column.
    ‘The first, a war elegy by Ivor Gurney, is comparatively short but produces an impression of great aims,’ she wrote.  ‘The themes are heartfelt and sincere, their treatment is grave and sensitive, and the opening and closing sections of the work are eloquent.  Toward the middle, the music loses its grip and wanders around rather than holds the direct onward flow. It will probably gain by being rewritten.’
    In a letter to his friend John Haines written in November 1920, Gurney mentioned the Elegy and indicated that he was having difficulty with it.  ‘The songs come all right, but the Piano Sonata and “Elegy” for Orchestra; No, there is a hard and futile grind there’. (CL, p.506)
    Having once been an investigative newspaper reporter, I found the mystery of the missing Elegy an inviting challenge.  It could well be lost or it could still exist.  But where?
    I sent an email to Peter Horton at the Royal College of Music library and asked him if the War Elegy might be ‘tucked away’ at the R.C.M., which seemed to me the logical place for it to be if it were anywhere.  It was first and last performed there and it was not in the Gurney Archive.
    Within less than 48-hours, I had the answer.  My search was over. ‘The MS of the War Elegy is indeed at the RCM, MS 4498,’ Mr. Horton replied.  There is no indication from the manuscript or from the catalogue as to when or how it came to be at the R.C.M., however it was probably left there after the performance in 1921.
    It will be interesting to learn if the War Elegy merits a contemporary performance.

Songs & Piano Pieces
Orchestral War Elegy
 To contact the Ivor Gurney webmaster,
write to David Kenneth Smith.
Ivor Gurney in 1915 -- Go to Top of Page
Bibliography | Biography | Books & Articles | Call for Help | Chronology | Contemporaries | Correspondence | Discuss | FAQ | Friends | Greeting Cards | Gurney Society | Home | Journal | Links | Music | Music Scores | New | Participate | Perspectives | Photo Album | Poetry | Poetry Books | Programs | Purpose | Questions | Recordings | Song Lyrics | Springs of Music | Thematic Catalogue | Today | Top | Towards a Bibliography | War Poetry | Who’s Who | Window & Gravestone | Works List

The Official Website of the Ivor Gurney Society