Music Webmaster: L.Mullenger@coventry.ac.uk
VARIOUS FORMS OF LOVE
Shakespeare dedicated his Sonnets to the mysterious "Mr. W.H." who is declared "the only begetter" thereof. The "Dark Lady" appears only towards the end.
I had known my dark Lady since the Law days, but we did not really come together until the War. Her name was Pat Simpson. She became a Met. Officer in the WAAFs while I joined the Navy. We used to meet together when I had some leave. Being an Officer she could generally get leave to match with mine.
I remember one occasion when I was at Chatham Barracks before joining the Welshman. We had arranged to meet at a given time and spot in the country. I joined the ranks of a leave queue only to find an angry voice shouting "Get back!" when it came to my turn. Some disorder or uncleanliness had offended this enraged petty officer. So I had to go back and look over my dress and boots to see if I could find anything wrong.
I managed to catch the next "boat" through the gates of the barracks and hurried as quickly as I could to our rendez-vous. Fortunately Pat had not given me up knowing that such exigencies could happen with the Senior Service.
We proceeded on our chosen project and soon found a "mossy bank where the wild thyme grew" where we lay down to take our ease for half an hour. But suddenly we realised that about two miles above our heads there was a dog-fight taking place, a soundless duel between two hostile fighters so far above our heads as to be almost invisible in a fine misty summer sky. So even miles from any sound or fury of the war one could not be free from some sign of it. What the meaning or outcome of the duel was we never knew, for the summer mist on a fine day soon occluded any sign of the fighters. All we knew was that there had been a duel to the death somewhere up in the sky some miles above our heads.
When I was made a Warrant Officer and sent to Chatham, it became easier for us to get together. We used to combine our holidays. She showed me her native Yorkshire dales, and I, of course, showed her round Cornwall. I remember one particularly wet summer when she made me stop outside the Lands End airport, while she consulted the Met. Office to find out the meteorological reasons for the persistent bad weather. When she returned, she explained it to me, but of course I could not understand the scientific lingo, so I was none the wiser. Incidentally it was on that bad summer that we suffered most from sunburn. We had foolishly enjoyed paddling on a sunny beach one solitary fine afternoon which resulted in our having to visit Penzance Hospital.
One holiday we had together was particularly fruitful musically when we went to the Black Mountains in Wales. It was a very fine week, when Wales can be particularly beautiful.
The second song is called "Wild Ponies of the Mountains". I remember chasing them further and further up the mountains, for they seemed to think I was an enemy, whereas I was only pursuing them because I thought they were so delightful. I remember how they seemed to go higher and higher, and this I tried to express by taking the music higher and higher on the piano.
The third song was added later with the help of the pastel I had painted of the scene.
Suddenly I noticed some yachts rushing across the scene. I was no draughtsman, but this was too good an opportunity to be missed so I hurriedly sketched in a boat or two with their flying sails, and they just gave me time to do this before they had all passed off the scene.
I was very pleased when Donald Francke, who sings these songs, said he liked this one the best. It was written several years after the others with the aid of the picture which hangs on my wall.
The fourth song, which is entitled "Man, beware", is a dramatic warning to man not to interfere with the beauty of the hills.
The last song, which is called "Gospel Pass" is based on an old legend that Saints Peter and Paul once visited these parts, summoned by Claudia, daughter of the Welsh prince, Caradoc, who asked them to attempt the conversion of the Silurians, who lived just north of the Black Mountains. The legend claims that the two Saints walked up Gospel Pass until they came to the point where you can see:-
This Song Cycle was dedicated to Pat Simpson, with whom I shared the beauty of the holiday.
And now I must tell how I came to meet my wife. It was the summer of 1952, and the tutor who had been engaged to take a class on Bachs Art of Fugue suddenly realised that she might be having a baby at the time of the Summer School, so I happened to be engaged to take her place. The tutor was expected to meet his students beforehand and the venue for this meeting was fixed for an attic in the W.E.A. headquarters at Woburn Square. My wife assures me now that it was a meeting and there were already several students there but I seem to have had a vision as I first saw her climbing those rickety stairs "Is this she?" I said to myself. It was the figure of a young woman - beautiful - rather sad. I knew immediately that this was someone whom I could help and who could help me.
The vision faded and I can remember little about the actual Summer School which was at Westonbirt. It was about five years before we actually got married. But this young lady and myself were continually thrown together during that time. She won a scholarship from London University and Geoffrey Bush and myself were appointed her tutors. She joined my Finchley Class. In the end I was appointed to take a music class at Wanstead where she worked as a teacher in what was then an Orphanage School. She became the Secretary of this class. Meanwhile I had asked her and her lifelong friend, Sue Jordan to help me with my opera production at the Minack Open Air Theatre at Porthcurno. So it was not surprising that in 1957 we got married.
All this time I had been valuing my friendship with my "dark lady". Naively enough I had somehow hoped that the two could be retained together. I actually broke down when at last I had to confess that I was going to get married. She seemed to take it quite well but there was an inevitable break between us. It is a tribute to the beauty of her friendship that she came in the end to accept our marriage and even to love our children.
I tried to express this in one of my Songs of Friendship which were first performed at my Ninetieth Birthday Concert, and I called it "The Broken Friendship". Out of the seven songs in this Cycle it was this one that Ian Partridge and Michael Dussek, who performed it, said they liked the best. This was at my Ninetieth Birthday Concert in 1995.
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