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The Loder Family and their Music in Provincial Britain:
A Study Day Report by Raymond J Walker
The Picture Gallery, Holburne Museum, Bathwick, Bath, England, October 15,
Organisers: Andrew Clarke, Matthew Spring, Charles Wiffen, Amina Wright
Speakers: Prof Stephen Banfield, Prof. Paul Rodmel, Robert Beale, Margaret Christopoulos, Paul Cooper, Carole Hooper, Peter Horton, Mark Morris, Christopher Redwood, Bill Tuck, Amina Wright
Papers: John C White and the pirating of Captain Wyke; The spread of Quadrille mania throughout throughout England in the 19th century; Early 19th century images of British Musical life; Earning a Musical living in Provincial England; Two ladies at the piano; Samuel S. Wesley, the Loders, Bath & Bristol; Ann Matilda Loder; Melodrama vs Opera; The reception of Loder’s operas; Loder’s Manchester Alliance with Charles Hallé and the genesis of Raymond and Agnes.
One day’s presentation of freshly-researched papers on this wide range of topics had much to cover in the available time: two keynote addresses were also given.
The first session set the scene of musical life in Old Bath. In the days before copyright there would be considerable plagiarism and borrowing of musical inventions. The There was a fashion spreading from London to the spa towns of Bath, Leamington and Cheltenham for dance music of the Quadrilles, Polka and Waltz (imported from Vienna). The Loder family became deeply associated with the Quadrille’s rising popularity in Somerset and national newspaper citations of the dance show that Quadrille Mania rose to a peak around 1860. Much of this chapter of history is displayed in the superb paintings that fill the walls of the elegant Holburne.
The morning’s keynote address by Stephen Banfield, a specialist on provincial musicians in the West Country, took a broad look at the working life of the English composers, pianists and singers. Taking three examples, comparisons were provided between Edward Loder, Robert & Clara Schumann, and Richard J S Stevens where their income and expenditure could be matched to their style of living. Their income came mainly from three sources: teaching, organist & choirmaster positions, and performances. Teaching was a lucrative and vital component of their income. Church positions as organist and choirmaster could bring in a useful £28-200/annum but it was teaching that made life comfortable with incomes as much as £590/annum, an enormous sum for Stevens in 1802. Of particular interest was Prof. Banfield’s summary of ten rules that such practitioners needed to follow to survive: it was important to create a monopoly, cultivate regional networks yet remain connected with London, not expect much money from compositions and hold on to an institutional base, etc.
The second session revealed a connection with Samuel S Wesley, composer of hymn tunes, and the city through John D Loder. We discovered that London musicians helped to become known outside the capital despite difficulties in travel through the Music Festivals and proprietorial engagements. An introduction to pianists, Kate Loder (1825-1904) and Lucy Anderson (1797-1878) and their achievements were discussed against the pressures of society facing them. This was a period when a lot of bankruptcies took place in the family. Another successful stage artiste, Ann M Loder (1790-1848), had diversified talents in the performing arts and appeared as dancer, actress, pianist, singer, and composer. Despite performing widely she found time to rear ten children and passed on to them her love of the theatre: nine performed professionally, six as musicians. She had married into the Distin family where her husband was a composer of dance music (quadrilles) and formed a music ensemble with his sons.
The third session explored important connection with composer, Edward Loder (1809-65) and opera, which for a number of delegates was the important focus of the day. At the age of 24, six years after returning from his Frankfurt studies with Ries, Loder wrote his first opera, Nourjahad, a commission by Samuel Arnold for his new English Opera House at the Lyceum Theatre. The opera was performed with Barnett’s The Mountain Sylph in the opening year of 1834. The work was favourably received though its title and plot taken from Sheridan’s novel might not have been a box office attraction: nevertheless this first opera paved the way to a competently composed and well-received opera, The Night Dancers (1845). The plot by Soane was taken from Moncrieff’s play, Giselle, that had already been turned into a ballet. A discussion of the development of Loder’s opera libretto was discussed in relation to the previous use of the plot.
Raymond & Agnes (1855) was Loder’s third and final opera, yet Loder’s tardy scoring meant that Raymond & Agnes was not ready for its expected London première and was delayed for six years. Loder had taken the post of musical director at Manchester’s Theatre Royal in 1851 where he impressed with his operatic achievements, working alongside Charles Hallé. During his Manchester years he reworked the new opera, changing its title from its original, Agnes & Raymond. The work was premièred in Manchester in 1855, having been postponed from the previous year. The provincial opening and use of inferior singers (due to financial constraints) did not help the work being noticed by London’s establishment figures yet as a work the critics generally thought well of it.
In the afternoon’s keynote speech, Paul Rodmell looked at Loder’s development as a composer for stage works and analysed musical content of Loder’s trio of operas, Nourjahad, The Night Dancers and Raymond & Agnes. With useful piano illustrations Loder is shown to have had considerable ability and deserves more recognition than was previously given. The neglect of Loder’s second opera had been rescued by the Pyne-Harrison Company who at Covent Garden revived it for performance in 1860 but its revision to a shorter work did not result in better success despite the strengths the composer clearly possessed.