Music Webmaster: L.Mullenger@coventry.ac.uk r
RUTLAND AND KATHLEEN BOUGHTON,
WILLIAM AND GEORGE LLOYD
On one occasion. I was rung up by the B.B.C. "How well do you know Rutland Boughton?". He had written an article about my opera The Partisans, but I did not know him very well at that time. However, I put the best face I could on my connection with the great man and it ended in my being asked to go and interview Rutland and get as much information as I could about him and his works that would be useful for a programme they had in mind about him and his music.
When I wrote to him I found him most friendly. He invited me to go for a week-end so that I would have plenty of time to inspect his scores and any other programme or photograph I might like to see and to examine anything that I might think would interest the B.B.C.
At the time he had a cottage in the Forest of Dean and he told me to take a country bus from the station to which the B.B.C. had directed me. He would himself come and meet me at a low-lying crossing where I was to get out. I shall never forget my first impressions of that short stocky man with silver hair flowing in the wind. It made me think of Liszt. This was a meeting indeed at a crossing where I had been directed to get off.
We met warmly and I soon found myself being piloted up the hill to the cottage where I was to receive another warm greeting from Kathleen who was his third wife.
When we first met I had noticed that he had a strong commanding look as such as had been able to organise music schools into great festivals of opera that could put on The Immortal Hour and lead to its transfer from there to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and thence to London, where I had seen it. We became friends immediately.
I was entertained very pleasantly for the week-end, studying the scores and memorabilia of a composer whom I had always greatly admired.
I was specially interested in the operas like The Ever Young which seems never to have been performed, though they appeared to have everything in their favour.
I could not help feeling that it was a pity he had allowed his political sympathies to colour his interpretation of so great a subject as the Arthurian legends, and I think they were surprised to find that I was a Christian sympathiser. I remember Kathleen, who was the daughter of a clergyman, saying that Christianity was rather a big pill to swallow. I had to confess that I could not put all my faith in the theories of one man, as the communists did with Karl Marx. So we had to agree to differ, when it came to a confession of faith.
I went home after a most interesting weekend, hoping that my report to the B.B.C. would be able to bring him all the help he deserved, and that it might lead to a performance of some of the lesser-known works.
Rutland was always in favour of large families and plenty of children. "I may be a trigamist, but " he used to say. He used to boast that all his three wives and various children by them got on well together. When he heard that I had married and had two little girls, he invited us to come and spend a week-end with him and Kathleen on the way back from our Cornish home.
Rutland resigned from the Communist Party when Russia walked into Hungary, and Kathleen may have recovered her faith after his death for she went to live with The Society of Friends. I wanted to show my family the beauties of the Forest of Dean, so one day we went there for the week-end with them both.
I was glad to have the opportunity to introduce my wife and daughters to this great composer and his charming wife. We were only worried when we realised that they had turned out of their own bedroom in order to make room for us and the children. I am so glad that they had a chance to meet the composer of The Immortal Hour.
I must now go back to 1934, the year before I was due to take up music at the R.C.M. The season at Covent Garden was just due to start. The Morning Post gave a list of the foreign operas to be performed and then added: "as usual there are no English operas and never will be".
Incensed by this remark, I wrote a letter to the Morning Post, which I was not in the habit of doing, giving a list of the English operas that might have been included. I remember mentioning Vaughan Williams Hugh the Drover and Sir John in Love, Boughtons Immortal Hour, The Queen of Cornwall and Alcestis, Deliuss Village Romeo and Juliet and others. To my surprise my letter was published and it had quite a response. I heard for the first time from Rutland Boughton and a letter came from Penzance from a Mr. William Lloyd saying that he had just had a wonderful success with a new opera called Iernin written by himself and his son George, which they were bringing to London, at the Lyceum Theatre when he hoped I would come to see it, and if so he would be pleased to meet me after the performance. I was surprised to find the theatre so full. I think Frank Howes, the music critic who had a cottage in Cornwall must have done a lot to promote the cause of Iernin. I had a long chat with William Lloyd during which George came to collect the full score from which he had been conducting. I was introduced to him, though he did not remember ever having met me when years later we came to meet each other. I tried to follow their fortunes and went to see their next opera The Serf at Covent Garden. After that I lost touch.
The next I heard of George was that he had joined the Navy, as I did, but had been seriously wounded, as never happened to me.
At the premiere of my opera, Avon I happened to find myself sitting next to Christie of Glyndebourne, who told me that he had offered George the chance of joining the staff at Glyndebourne in order to learn the ins and outs of an opera production, but that he had refused.
The next I heard of George was that he had been offered the chance of writing an opera for the Carl Rosa but what came of this I never heard.
Not long after this I gathered that George was no longer an opera composer but had turned to symphonies with some success. At last I met him again, for the second time, though he could not remember the first. It was a meeting of the London Cornish, and I was delivering the third Trelawney Lecture on "The Musical Spell of Cornwall". Afterwards we had quite a long conversation together and we were able to get to know each other as never before. In the lecture I had said that Cornish composers tended to write opera because they had the Cornish "guise-dance" in their blood. He told me that although he now wrote symphonies, he still thought of them as operas.
My next association with George Lloyd was when I heard him broadcast his "Desert Island Discs". He alluded to his troubles in the Navy. He had pulled himself out of his troubles by sheer will-power and determination. One could not help admiring his display of sheer courage though he did not specify the exact form it took. He mentioned that at one time he seemed to be "black-balled" (I presume because his scores were rejected) but now all that was changed and everything was accepted.
In this way I seemed to be always coming close to my fellow Cornish composers but never intimate. He came to my 90th Birthday Concert, as I was told later, but I did not see him there. I hope there may be opportunities of meeting him in the future.
|Return to Chapter 21||
Music Front Page