Dunhill and Holst play ‘kitchen’ instruments in RCM orchestra
A quote from Martin Shaw’s autobiography Up to Now, publ. OUP, 1929:
“Coleridge Taylor, Vaughan Williams, Hurlstone, Holst, Ireland, Gatty, Boughton, and Dunhill were all studying composition then with Stanford. I don’t suppose there has ever been a time in English music when such a galaxy of young compsers studied at the same period under one master.
Holst, Dunhill, and I used to play the ‘kitchen’ instruments in the orchestra. On one occasion the whole orchestra went down to Cambridge to give a concert. Among other things we played Tchaikovsky’s overture Francesca da Rimini, Holst clashing the cymbals, Dunhill tinkling the traingle, and I thumping the big drum. Unfortunately I miscounted my bars and delivered a fortissimo bang, solo, about three seconds after the overture had finished, causing Stanford to shake his fist at me from the conductor’s desk.”
Shaw goes on to say: “My attendance at the College was irregular and my studies erratic. I left without taking a degree – unhonoured and certainly unsung. I wish I had been less foolish.” Shaw in fact went on to have an in distinguished career as a composer. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Shaw_(composer)
Who has not played this piece?
TFD’s A Song of Erin – a miniature piano piece published in 1935 by the ABRSM in a book First Year Pieces– has been used for exams many times since. According to some estimates this piece has been played by around 2 million Grade I students, making it a candidate for ‘the most played piece of music in history’.
In 1910 TFD was a passenger on a White Star ship en route for Jamaica as an examiner for the ABRSM. In his diary he records that he wrote some arrangements for the band on the ship. Could some of these arrangement have been played on the Titanic’s maiden voyage in April 1912?
Landscape in music
An element of playfulness is evident in many of TFD’s compositions. In his 1926 piece for violin and piano From the Hills of Sligo the literal shape of the violin melody imitates the contours of the Sligo hills. This was a compositional technique also used (20 years later) by Aaron Copland in his work Appalachian Spring. Another example is a piano piece composed for his 15-year old daughter, Barbara, in 1936, then living away at boarding school in Malvern. Entitled Pas Seul, she might have translated this as a comforting ‘not alone’ – when it actually means a ballet-step for one dancer.
Educational Pianoforte Music by Thos. F. Dunhill
A considerable number of piano compositions were published by Alfred Lengnick & Co. One of these ‘Once Upon A Time’ also contains an advertisement for the others – which may still be available from the publisher on demand: ‘A Garden of Melodies – Seven Easy Pieces’; ‘Recreations – Four Easy Pieces’; ‘Four Salon Pieces – 1. In the Maytime, 2. A Summer Lullaby, 3. Remembrance, 4. Humoresque; Three Easy Pieces – 1. Hammock Song, 2. Novelette, 3. Tambourin; Three Miniature Waltzes; Playtime Melodies – Five Short Pieces; The Eyes of Youth – Five Easy Pieces; Short Original Pieces [sold separately]: 1. A Morning Song, 2. Fairy Minuet, 3. A Sea Song, 4. Drowsy Noon, 5. Hunting Horns, 6. Valse Lyrique, 7. Galopade, 8. A Morning Greeting, 9. Gypsy Dance, 10. Gavotte, 11. Postillon, 12. Girls and Boys come out to play, 13. In Solitude, 14. Hornpipe, 15. A Celtic Lullaby, 16. Passepied; Fancies – Five Instructive Pieces – 1. Canzonetta, 2. A Noontide Reverie, 3. Arabesque, 4. Lords & Ladies Fair, 5. A Dance in the Moonbeams; Once Upon A Time contains the following pieces: 1. Once Upon a Time, 2. The China Sheperdess, 3. Thumbelina, 4. The Little Mermaid, 5. A Pixie Lullaby, 6. Fairy Cobblers.
The Cloths of Heaven in 2012/13 ABRSM syllabus
Arguably Dunhill’s best known composition, the song-setting The Cloths of Heaven, appears once again in the new ABRSM singing syllabus at Grade 5 level. The song had its first performance by the famous tenor Gervase Elwes in around 1910, and has been popular ever since. More recently Ian Bostridge included it on a CD of English Songs. It is one of four pieces that make up The Wind among the Reeds, the words coming from WB Yeats. The other songs are: The Fiddler of Dooney, To Dectora and The Host of the Air, published by Stainer & Bell.