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Patrick Hadley - a Brief Biography
by John France

Brief Bibliography
List of Works
Brief Discography
Biography by Andrew Sievewright
The Hills


The Man

Patrick Hadley was born in Cambridge on 5th March 1899. His father, William Sheldon Hadley was at that time a fellow of Pembroke College. His mother, Edith Jane, was the daughter of Rev. Robert Foster, Chaplain to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin.

Patrick studied initially at St Ronan's Preparatory School at West Worthing and then at Winchester College. However the First World War interrupted his education. He enlisted in the army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He managed to survive unscathed until the last weeks of the war when he received an injury that resulted in his right leg being amputated below the knee. This had a profound effect on his confidence and also caused him to perhaps drink more than was wise; alcohol acted as relief for the considerable pain he was constantly in. Hadley's elder brother was himself killed in action during the Great War.

After the War he went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was fortunate to study with both Charles Wood and the undervalued English composer, Cyril Rootham. Hadley was awarded Mus. B in 1922, and an MA in 1925. He then went to the Royal College of Music in London. Here he came under the influence of Ralph Vaughan Williams for composition and Adrian Boult and Malcolm Sargent for conducting. Eric Weatherall notes that Hadley's contemporaries at the RCM included Constant Lambert and Gordon Jacob. He won the Sullivan prize for composition at that time the princely sum of 5/-.

He eventually became a member of the RCM staff in 1925 and taught composition. He became aquainted with Delius (see Eric Fenby's account in 'Delius as I knew him') E.J. Moeran, Sir Arnold Bax, William Walton, Alan Rawsthorne and Herbert Howells. In fact his friends are a litany of all that was best in English Music at that time.

In 1938 he was offered a Fellowship of Gonville and Caius College in Cambridgeshire and a position as lecturer at Cambridge University. Much of his time was spent in run of the mill activities associated with the administration of the music faculty. However, there was still time available for composition. Some of his greatest works were written during and after the war.

During the Second World War he deputised for Boris Ord as the conductor and musical director of the Cambridge University Music Society. There he introduced a number of important works, including Delius' Appalachia and The Song of the High Hills.

He was keen to promote a wide range of music - including the formation of a Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Much of his time was spent in making arrangements for the use of the 'chaps' in the choir. However, most of these have not survived. We know them only from programmes notes and hearsay.

In 1946 he was elected to the Chair of Music at Cambridge University. He retained this post until his retirement in 1962. Some of the students taught by Hadley have gone on to make big names for themselves; Raymond Leppard, David Lumsden and Peter le Huray.

In 1962 Hadley retired to his house at Heacham. He wished to pursue his interest in folk-song collection. However, he latterly struggled with throat cancer and this caused many of his activities to be suspended.

Patrick Hadley died on 17th December 1973 at Kings Lynn. He was 74 years old.


The Music

Patrick Hadley was influenced by the music of Frederick Delius and also to a certain extent folk music. But there were other non-musical influences in his life too - Ireland and Norfolk gave him a profound sense of landscape and location.

His output was limited. He found the business of composing quite exhausting. Most people think of Hadley as composer of one or two church anthems - I Sing of a Maiden and the mildly erotic My Beloved spake. The catalogue shows a wide variety of musical forms - from a Symphonic Ballad to incidental music for the Twelfth Night. However, there are no cycles of symphonies, concerti or string quartets.

He maintained throughout his a career a sense of the lyrical. Not for him was the experimental music of the Second Vienna School. He had an exceptional understanding of how to set words to music. Much of his music is meditative and quite inward looking. One is left wishing he had written more music for chamber and orchestral forces. Much of Patrick Hadley's music seems to evoke the English and the Irish landscape. This is sometimes overt and sometimes intangible. However it is always done in a very subtle and beautiful way.

One of Hadley's undoubted masterpieces is the Symphonic Ballad - The Trees so High. This is a large-scale setting of the folk song of that name for baritone, chorus and full orchestra. The work is in four movements and it is only in the last, that Hadley deploys the chorus and soloist. It is in this movement that Hadley quotes the folk-song in its entirety.

The Hills was completed in 1944 and is perhaps the finest of Hadley’s cantatas. The others two being Fen and Flood and Connemara. It has strong personal links with the composer’s life, dealing with the meeting, courtship and marriage of his parents. The landscape described is Derbyshire and this is well reflected in the music. One is reminded, perhaps of Delius’ Mass of Life.

Perhaps the gentlest introduction to Hadley is his short orchestral work – One Morning in Spring, which was composed to celebrate Ralph Vaughan Williams 70th birthday. It is a fine example of an English tone poem.

Perhaps the desideratum is the early orchestral sketch ‘Kinder Scout.’ However this is still in manuscript and will take an adventurous record company to produce it.

Although Hadley was best of friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams, he never truly bought into the so-called folk song revival. Much of his music has folk characteristics, however not for him the old adage of Constant Lambert - all you can do with a folk tune is to repeat it -louder! Hadley's use of the folk idiom was subtle.

Much of the composer's output was connected with the Caius Choir. He did a number of arrangements of works in many different genres - from Verdi's Stabat Mater to Waltzing Matilda.

Patrick ‘Paddy’ Hadley’s music will never be widely popular. However, he will appeal greatly to those interested in British music. If he had only composed the Symphonic Ballad – The Trees So High and nothing else, he would be respected as a fine composer. As it is all his works exhibit a great degree of skill, craftsmanship and sheer musicality.


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