From Valkyrie to CBE - the saga of Agnes Nicholls
by Charles A. Hooey
It is a mystery why only fifteen
of the sixty-two known takes made by the English dramatic soprano
Agnes Nicholls were ever
One possible reason could have been that she was very critical
of her recordings. More significantly, few major singers have
left a legacy of recordings which is so unrepresentative of their
repertoire. There are few recordings of the opera and oratorio
in which she excelled. There is no Wagner, no Mozart and few
recordings of oratorio. Her discography is comprised mainly of
popular songs of the day and, possibly for this reason, she is
somewhat neglected, even by collectors.
Her scant discography is regrettable, because Agnes Nicholls
was unquestionably an accomplished singer and a beloved figure
in English music. Close scrutiny of her few records will reveal,
in her softer passages, an incredible sweetness, while elsewhere
she sounds wonderfully firm and assured. Undoubtedly, she reached
many in a very special way. Indeed her nation rewarded her handsomely
for her achievements. An article is long overdue.
Agnes Helen Nicholls" was born on 14 July, 1876 in Cheltenham,
a smart Regency spa town nestled on the picturesque Cotswolds,
about 85 miles west of London. Her parents were Albert Chapman
Nicholls, a draper, and Fanny Elizabeth Nicholls, née
Vent. "My father and mother were both great lovers of
recalled years later (The singer’s comments here, and
later, are taken from her ‘A Vignette’ in Opera,
both sang and my father played the oboe and the English horn.
It was my father's relaxation and he spent most of his evenings
after his return from business in working at new things and
enjoying old ones. I am told my cradle was often in the drawing
and I slept peacefully through most things, occasionally
startling the party by crawling out! I am also told I could
country songs taught me by my French nurse before I could
speak English. I started to learn the violin at five, and at
I played in a children's orchestra. My father did not think
it wise for girls to sing, so I worked at the violin and
piano, these being my `extras' during schooldays, but I always
if I got an opportunity, learning things by myself, and then
suddenly announcing at the most inauspicious moment, that
"When I was fourteen, I went to London with my father and was
introduced to opera at Covent Garden - Lohengrin with
Jean and Edouard de Reszke, Emma Eames, Giulia Ravogli, and
I think, Plançon. That was a night in fairy-land but
I never thought I should one day be on that same stage myself.
my violin and piano, and began harmony, and I was very happy
at the Bedford High School when my father allowed me at fifteen
to have singing lessons with Dr. Harding."
Quick to recognize his daughter’s musical gifts, Albert
Nicholls agreed that Agnes could attend London’s Royal
College of Music, in 1893, as a student of the violin with piano
as a second study. When he died suddenly, she decided to seek
a scholarship for singing.
"I tried for it, won it, and
held it for five years with dear Albert Visetti as my master.
It was a curious thing to come to London, knowing no one
and to start this new kind of life at seventeen, but it was
interesting. Things now moved very quickly--I worked hard,
but loved it, and in a very short time, indeed in my second
I was already a College personality! I think the reason
for this was that I could read at sight and also was a quick
my first year at College, I appeared before her late Majesty
Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in opera.”
Majesty so enjoyed the young soprano’s performance that
she invited Agnes back to Windsor to display her oratorio skills
on two occasions.
Among the earliest references to Nicholls
traced is from The Musical Times of 1 April 1895, which reported
on a student
performance at the RCM of Brahms German Requiem:
solo in No. 5 ‘Ye now are sorrowful,’ was taken
by a young scholar, Miss Agnes Nicholls. We have never heard
it interpreted more satisfactorily. She not only sang in
tune - no easy feat in this trying piece - but with just
simplicity and avoidance of all affectation and of striving-after
effect which the words and the sublime music demand. Miss
Nicholls is a pupil from whom much may be expected."
from the lady herself:
"These events brought me notoriety and before the year
was out, I was already beginning to earn."...such as singing
Dido in Purcell's opera at the Lyceum Theatre, showing in
great versatility, "Once F. R. Benson (now Sir Frank
Benson) heard me and offered a tour. I went as the "Singing
College authorities allowed me leave of absence, and the
experience gained of the stage was wonderful. I was very
sad when the
tour ended, but other things called and I had to go, for
so much to be learnt.
During the holidays of these last two College years, I had
spent a good deal of time abroad, and it was mostly in Germany
I gained my knowledge of opera. I had only the money I earned
to spend, so I used to buy my return ticket, put away enough
money for my pension and my expenses on the return journey
and then spend the rest on opera. I think my pleasantest
memories are of Dresden; there I got to know many of the
great Therese Malten was most kind to me. To watch rehearsals
in such an opera house is a revelation to us in England;
the amount of rehearsals and the detail with which they are
is amazing; of course, it can only be done in a State-aided
place or where there is unlimited money. Another thing that
me very forcibly was that no position had to be kept up by
the artists. I remember my astonishment at seeing Frau Wittich
to sing Isolde, riding in a tramcar with her hair all screwed
up ready for her wig, and a bundle of sandwiches in her hand!
and she, at that time, was one of the idols of Dresden.
One winter I visited Prague where there were two opera
houses; the standard was not so high though it was interesting
compare the two languages. Vienna, Munich, Berlin and Dresden
my favorite places for opera. I never saw Bayreuth - the
prohibitive in those days and later it was never convenient."
far we've heard mainly from the lady herself, and in her words,
there appears a picture of a sensitive, down-to-earth
one who could easily make friends amongst peers, colleagues
and folks in communities she visited. This was especially evident
in the city of Hull. After she sang there first as a student
on 3 March 1896 in Parry's oratorio Judith, she was
invited back on seven separate occasions. The next visit came
on 18 December
for the Christmas Messiah. Her Messiahs were
legion and for a sampling, see Appendix A.
At this time, Jamaica-born composer/conductor Sir Frederic
Cowen (1852- 1935) held sway in Manchester’s musical life. Writing
some year later he recalled, “Among the vocalists were
several young artists, since become very prominent figures
in our musical life: notably, Clara Butt, Agnes Nicholls and
Foster; the two latter, nearly, if not quite, began their career
under my direction in a performance of Parry's Judith." Recalling
those happy times she recorded two of Cowen's songs, "At
the Mid Hour of Night" and "A Bride Song." Parry,
who was noted mostly for his choral works, also admired Nicholls
and would compose material especially for her.
For years, she was a fixture at the Three Choirs Festival,
first experiencing the thrills at Gloucester whilst still a
when the attraction was an appearance in Elijah by Canadian
diva Emma Albani. "I was behind a pillar and was bitterly disappointed
at being able only to hear and not to see!" In 1897, she
became a performer herself at Gloucester, and subsequently replaced
Albani as the nation’s leading oratorio soprano (See
In 1898, she made two visits to Hull, the first on 8 March
to sing Elijah with Jessie King, Tom Child and David
Hughes, the second on 18 November to perform the challenging
music of The Voyage of the Maeldune with Muriel Foster,
Dan Price and the Welsh lyric tenor Hirwen Jones under the
works composer Charles Villiers Stanford.
In Newcastle, she helped locals soak up the glory of Beethoven's Ninth
Symphony on 24 November 1899 alongside Muriel Foster, Joseph
Reed and Dan Price under Hans Richter, who would soon exert
major influence over her career. Then, in Manchester, she rounded
her studies with John Acton.
After accumulating so much precious experience, she finally
found the doors of the Royal Opera open to her. The year was
She made her début there as the Dewman in Humperdinck's Hansel
und Gretel with Martha David and Frieda Felser as the intrepid
youngsters. She also sang the small role of Tyndaris in Isidore
de Lara's opera Messaline on 2 July, alongside luminaries
Emma Calvé, Francesco Tamagno and Paul Seveilhac. The
London-born composer had seen his opera about a voluptuous Roman
Empress and a mighty gladiator Helion (Tamagno) premièred
at Monte Carlo in 1899 and then succeed amidst a wild scandal
at La Scala, Milan, the first opera by a British composer to
be given there. This early experience proved quite enough for
Agnes, who decided to devote herself to oratorio and concert
work over the next three years.
Soon, however, she found her true fach in the works
of Richard Wagner. "I always feel I owe much to the help and
encouragement of Dr. Hans Richter. He liked my voice and my work,
but after hearing so much opera in Germany, I came to the conclusion
I could not attempt Wagner." These doubts Richter eventually
dispelled and, before her career ended more than twenty years
later, she would portray practically every soprano character
Wagner created. "When I used to play the first Rhinemaiden
in concerts with the Hallé, as Richter passed to go
to his rostrum, he would say to me, `nicht schleppend' for
a bad habit of so enjoying the music that I sometimes dragged
Singing Wagner’s music did cause problems, “I must
not omit the late John Acton, singing teacher,” she wrote
in ‘A Vignette’. “When I began all this heavy
work, I found that it affected the poise of my voice, and it
was he who helped me to readjust it and use it without forcing
In other music, for a Gentlemen's Concert on 20 October 1902
as part of a Hallé season, Richter offered music by Bennett,
Elgar and Handel and then he accompanied Agnes in "Caro
nome" from Rigoletto.
He hurried to participate in the Norfolk & Norwich Musical
Festival, held in St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, on 24th October.
The programme contained, amongst solos and trios, Gounod’s The
Redemption, famous for its ‘O Divine Redeemer’.
It was a busy time on the Saturday (25th) when a “Popular
Concert’ involved her along with Robert Radford, William
Green, Kate Moss and Louise Kirkby Lunn. Nicholls sang ‘When
the heart is young’ (Dudley Black) and April Morn (Robert
Batten) and joined the others in Liza Lehmann’s song
Returning to Hull on 21 November, she performed the music of
Parry’s Judith, sharing the platform on this occasion
with Charles Saunders, Alice Lakin and Robert Radford.
For British music, the most notable event of the season of
1903 came at the Birmingham Festival on 14 October, when Elgar
his oratorio, The Apostles. It was Agnes's turn two
nights later with Muriel Foster, William Green and Andrew Black
Bruckner's Te Deum, conducted by Richter. Then, in Manchester
on 27 October, he led a concert with the second half devoted
to an abbreviated Fidelio with Agnes in the title part.
The following year was memorable in several ways. On 15 March
1904, during an Elgar Festival at Covent Garden, she had the
pleasure of offering Londoners their first taste of The Apostles with
Kirkby Lunn, Ffrangçon Davies, Coates, Rumford and Black.
Next, she packed her bags and sailed for America bound for
the world famous Cincinnati Summer Festival. There, on 11 May
she appeared in Bach's Mass in B Minor with Ernestine
Schumann-Heink, William Green and Robert Watkin Mills. Then,
on the 13th, she joined Muriel Foster, Green and Mills in Elgar's Dream
of Gerontius, offering as an encore, ‘Abscheulicher’ from
Act I of Fidelio. On the 14th, she sang in Beethoven's Ninth
Symphony with Schumann-Heink, Green and Mills. After this
successful visit to the USA, she arrived home in time to return
to Covent Garden as Micaëla in Carmen with Calvé,
the tenor Gustave Dufriche and the Escamillo of Antonio Scotti.
Sharing Micaëla in later performances were Hildur Fjord
and Suzanne Adams.
Years after her brief American sojourn, she recalled "I
had an offer to go to reside in America to sing in one of the
New York churches, I couldn't make up my mind about it, so
I journeyed over to see - but came home again. I didn't like
idea of having to appear every Sunday and lead the choir and
sing solos...England appealed to me more at that time!"
real excitement came though on 15 July, when she married twenty-four
year old Herbert Hamilton Harty (pictured) at the church
of St. Luke's in Kentish Towns in north-west London. A native
of Hillsborough, County Down, the Irish composer/conductor
a shining light in English musical life and naturally he
would often accompany his wife.
Agnes returned to the Covent Garden stage in May, 1905 in two
cycles in German of Wagner's Ring given in Grman. She appeared
in Die Walküre on 2 May with Carl Burrian, American
bass Allen Hinckley as Hunding, the Wotan of Clarence Whitehill
and Katharine Fleischer-Edel and Marie Wittich sharing Sieglinde,
the latter now removed from her rattling Dresden tram. "My
role was Helmwige, one of the Valkyries, and to my horror we
were put on what were called the `machines', enormous things,
I don't know how high, and we stepped out from a platform into
an iron bodyholder, high in the air and supported on a sort of
wooden truck. An iron band went round our waists, things like
stirrups were for our feet, there were two things round our knees
- and we were strapped tight. There were four men below who pushed
us about, and we had to sing, swaying high above the stage. The
machines were draped in green material to look like water." On
6 May she one of the three Norns in Götterdämmerung.
However, "One of my greatest joys was singing Donna Elvira
in Don Giovanni with Destinn, Caruso/Constantino, Gilibert,
Scotti, Journet, Donalda and Marcoux - a fine cast!" These
three performances began on 1 July and continued on 7th and
17th of that month.
When Mendelssohn's Elijah was given early in 1906 by
the Royal Choral Society at the Royal Albert Hall, the event
impressive interpretation by Agnes Nicholls who, of late, has
made significant advances in her art, and who sang the solos
with feeling and purity of voice." The other soloists
were Phyllis Lett, Herbert Brown, William Green with Sir Frederick
Bridge as conductor. On 27 February, during a Wagner concert
with the Philharmonic Society conducted by Felix Weingartner,
she sang the final scene from Die Walküre with
baritone Frederic Austin. That same year she joined the roster
signed by the newly-formed Ibbs & Tillett agency, filling
concert engagements throughout the British Isles.
On 28 June, during the Handel Festival in Crystal Palace, Nicholls
sang selections from Israel in Egypt with Ada Crossley,
Kirkby Lunn, Watkin Mills, Charles Saunders and Kennerley Rumford.
The event was an artistic success thanks in a large measure
to Frederic Cowen. That season she was busy at the Garden as
having appeared as Woglinde on 4 May (Das Rhinegold);
Helmwige the next day; the Woodbird on the 7th and
Woglinde in Götterdämmerung on the 9th.
An important appearance at Covet Garden during 1906 was as
Venus in Tannhäuser.
With another impressive cast: George Anthes (Tannhäuser),
Anton Van Rooy and Clarence Whitehill alternating as Wolfram,
Paul Knüpfer as Hermann, with the role of Elisabeth shared
among Milka Ternina, Marie Knüpfer-Egli and Anna von Bahr-Mildenburg!
When she repeated her Donna Elvira on 17th July
she railed against the Don Giovanni of Mattia Battistini and
her misfortune with Enrico Caruso, in one if his rare appearances
as Don Ottavio, a role he seems to have sung only at Covent
Several months later, at the 42nd Birmingham Festival,
on the morning of 3 October, all eyes were on Elgar as he led
the première of The Kingdom, with a hand-picked
cast: Muriel Foster, John Coates, William Higley and Agnes
as the Blessed Virgin. That evening, Richter gave the first
of Josef Holbrooke's "The Bells," which offered
music composed to a text by Edgar Allan Poe, a piece Agnes
followed with an aria from Mozart's Entführung aus dem Serail.
Her next appearance at the Royal Opera came early in 1907 during
a month-long season which was largely devoted to German opera.
The engagement witnessed her most important work to date. She
followed Aïno Ackté as Elsa in Lohengrin during
January and February, Helmwige on 22 January, and repeated
on 13 February. In April, Nicholls travelled to Reading in
to sing the music of two old friends, joining Frederic Austin
in Parry’s De Profundis and Stanford’s Elegiac
Ode. Then in April and May, she repeated her usual parts
of Woglinde, Helmwige and the Woodbird and followed Destinn
as Venus on 28 May, while on the other nights (20 May and 5
she sang the Shepherd. That role on the 28th was
given by Caroline Hatchard.
Then on 15 June, the soprano participated in an Elijah at
a Festival in Crystal Palace, which boasted Ada Crossley, Ben
Davies and Charles Santley under Cowen’s direction. Later
in the year, at the Cardiff Festival she had the pleasure of
helping her husband give the premiere of his magical setting
of Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale, a work for soprano and
orchestra that took her through a delicate pianissimo opening
to room-shaking climax. Hay, as Harty was known to family and
fiends, was beginning to fulfill his promise as a composer.
Richter's English Ring
This was a fruitful time for British artists at Covent Garden
in particular those who were part of the historic, first-in-English
presentation of Wagner's complete Ring. Agnes appeared
as Sieglinde in The Valkyrie on 28 January 1908. Reminiscing
fifty years later, she recalled, "The first act went wonderfully
and we all enjoyed it. So evidently did the audience, for we
had ten curtains at the end of that act. I thought they were
never going to let us off the stage." Two nights later,
she sang Brünnhilde in Siegfried and later Sieglinde
in the second cycle, meeting with a warm critical reception.
After all the excitement at the Garden, she went to Hull to
unwind on 12 February, appearing at a concert organized by
But on 2 June, it was time to bow to the Meister again at the
Garden when "as Sieglinde, she sang very finely, the freshness
and purity of her voice increasing the pathos of her part."
The success of the English Ring had not gone unnoticed
by musical societies all over the British Isles and soon many
were clamoring to hear portions in concert. Thus it was that,
in February 1909, Richter obliged the cities of Leeds and Manchester,
presenting Agnes, Hyde and Radford in Act I of The Valkyrie.
For other music lovers, the most intriguing new work was Alick
Maclean's oratorio, The Annunciation, first heard at
Queen's Hall on 15 February when the soloists were Agnes, Gervase
Edna Thornton and Robert Barnett with the composer stewarding
the forces of the London Symphony and the much-feted Sheffield
Beecham - the first encounter
Though for six years she had been having the time of her life
at the Garden, much of that time was spent on the sidelines
watching foreign artists reap the glory. Now, like many of
confrères, she found herself drawn into the artistic
world of Thomas Beecham, the dynamic thirty-one-year-old conductor
from St. Helens who had shaken up London's musical scene in
by introducing opera-in-English at His Majesty's Theatre in
Haymarket. Staging a mini-Mozart Festival, Beecham cast Agnes
as the Countess
Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro on 22 June with Lewys
James (Figaro), Beatrice La Palme (Susanna), Maggie Teyte (Cherubino)
and Robert Maitland (the Count). The work was repeated three
With the ageing Richter moving to the sidelines, Beecham also
featured Agnes in his concerts. At Covent Garden on 30 October,
she sang the ‘Liebestod’ from Tristan und Isolde and ‘Dove
sono’ from Act III of Figaro, returning on 20
November to perform ‘Absence’ by Berlioz and the
Act I Duet from Die Walküre with Walter Hyde.
Late in April 1911, at the Sheffield Festival, she joined Louise
Kirkby Lunn, Thorpe Bates and Robert Radford in Ruth,
a cantata by Professor Georg Schumann. Although its première
was much anticipated, the unmistakable influence of Wagner robbed
the work it of any semblance of originality. It was back to the "real
thing" in a packed St. George's Hall in Bradford as Agnes
sang excerpts from the Dutchman, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin in
company with Hyde and Richard Evans in a concert to honour
her mentor, the illustrious Herr Doctor Richter.
Touring with Denhof and Quinlan
With the arrival of Spring, she joined the ebullient German
impresario Ernst Denhof for an Operatic Festival he staged,
that began in
Leeds. Agnes joined in Manchester on 5 April to sing Brünnhilde
in Siegfried with Coates, Thornton and Austin. She carried
her role through into Twilight of the Gods two nights
later, and on 15 April, repeated the process north of the border
Irish promoter Thomas Quinlan, a colourful and easy-going type,
had a more ambitious undertaking in mind - a worldwide operatic
tour, no less. For Agnes, that would mean singing the first
of seven Isoldes in the UK on 3 November with John Coates as
Edna Thornton as Brangäne, Robert Parker as Kurwenal and
Charles Magrath as King Mark. Early in 1912, the company sailed
for South Africa bound for Cape Town. In Johannesburg, Agnes
sang Aida on 8 March, Isolde on the 11th and Elsa in Lohengrin on
the 14th, each time with John Coates.
Then Quinlan and his entourage sailed to Australia, arriving
in Melbourne. Agnes was called upon on 10 June to sing Elisabeth
in the Paris version of Wagner's Tannhäuser, proving "herself
a consummate artist in her method of subduing an expansive figure
to Elisabethan requirements. Her voice, though not large, was
praised for its exceptional purity and brilliance, sweetness
and evenness throughout its range and she was admired for the
warmth and intelligence of her acting." She sang her first
of five Isoldes on 14 June, the occasion being the Australian
première of Wagner's Tristan and Isolda. Another
antipodean "first" came the following afternoon in
Debussy's The Prodigal Son with Agnes as the Mother.
In an Aida on 18 June, the first of five performances, "the
principals, all excelling in the clarity of their diction,
were the strongest the company could provide: Nicholls and
Thornton and Parker, the two pairs singing and interacting
with passion and conviction."
During the second week she sang well in The Valkyrie "but
it was generally agreed that Brünnhilde did not suit...despite
the artistry of her singing and acting - she was too gentle for
a "war-maiden," though her annunciation of death
and final scene were moving. In Gounod's Faust, because
of her ample proportions, it was found that her Marguerite
complete triumph of art over matter" - surprising, perhaps,
for those who know the lady as a gifted Wagnerian artist and
who probably never gave her credit for even thinking of Gounod's
heroine, usually done by singers who lean to the lighter operatic
roles." Quinlan moved on to Sydney for more of the same
until 16 August.
He then brought his artists home but not to discharge them;
instead he took a second swing through the U.K. Agnes, however,
commitments, notably the Bristol Festival, where on 23 October
a concert version of Wagner's Ring was presented in
which she joined Perceval Allen, Marion Beeley, Edith Clegg,
Whitehill, Robert Radford, Morgan Kingston, Lloyd Chandos,
Peter Cornelius and Hans Bechstein. She then went to Nottingham
Beecham - recently returned from delighting audiences in Vienna
- and his orchestra on 21 November to sing ‘Dove sono,’ offering
the aria and ‘Ocean, thou mighty monster,’ from Oberon as
Next she caught up with Quinlan in Hull where the welcome mat
was firmly in place during the week of 16 December. Old friends
flocked to hear her sing Sieglinde in The Valkyrie with
John Harrison, Gladys Ancrum and Edna Thornton and to hear
her as Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. When the tour ended
on 18 January 1913, Quinlan’s weary band of world troupers
was left to patch up their interrupted careers. Agnes headed
into action with the upcoming Proms season.
With so much talk of war, she skipped Quinlan's follow-up tour
to stay, choosing to remain in the U.K. as part of Denhof's
next and most optimistic venture. She appeared as Senta in The
Flying Dutchman, as the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier and,
on 5 November 1913, as Brünnhilde in Siegfried.
In Manchester, "Strauss's witty Rosenkavalier under
Schilling-Ziemssen was a perfect foil (for the previous Wagner)," avowed
The Musical Times, "Here Mesdames Agnes Nicholls, Caroline
Hatchard, Elizabeth Schiller and Mr. Arthur Pacyna bore away
the palm. How the first named conveyed the pathetic beauty of
the Indian Summer of a woman's life (at the close of Act II)
must be seen and heard to be believed. It came to most Manchester
musicians as an astounding revelation." In Newcastle,
illness kept Agnes from appearing in The Flying Dutchman so
Cecily Gleeson-White sang, and quite admirably too. How Denhof's
dissolved and how Beecham performed a miracle rescue is another
story. A distressing adventure it was!
Immersed in diversity
Reminiscing years later, Agnes wrote of her career in Europe
and work with Quinlan. "I have also sung in Germany, and
have very delightful memories of a month's tour in Holland," she
recalled, and with Quinlan, "such interesting and delightful
countries and such hospitable people; indeed one can be too
much entertained to be good for one's work, but such audiences
a perfect joy to work for."
As conditions in Europe worsened, Agnes and her musician friends
sought a meaningful role in matters of the day. She sang the
soothing music of Delius at a Proms concert on 8 June 1914
in Duke's Hall at her alma mater, the Royal Academy
of Music, and performed the finale of A Village Romeo and Juliet with
Frank Mullings. To Beecham's piano accompaniment, she sang ‘The
violet,’ ‘In the Seraglio Garden’ and ‘The
Bird's Story.’ Delius was present and "warmly applauded" at
Always ready to join the fight to promote the under-appreciated
merits of English artists, in this cause she gave a superb
recital in Bournemouth on 21 October 1914, then journeyed north
performance of the Verdi Requiem with the Halifax Choral
Society, which took place on 5 November under H.A. Fricker,
singing of Miss Agnes Nicholls and Madame Kirkby Lunn was most
artistic and dramatic, while they had able colleagues in Mr.
Lenghi-Cellini and Mr. Ranalow." Then on 7 November, she
pleased a Saturday matinee crowd in Leeds.
Her versatility was evident in a Subscription Concert at the
Albert Hall on the 11th, which found her offering
Butterfly’s Act 2 aria, and three of Herbert Hughes’s Irish
Country Songs (‘The lover’s curse’, I know
where I’m going’ and ‘A Ballynure Ballad’).
She then joined Phyllis Lett, Frank Mullings, Robert Radford
and Marie Hall for the remainder of the programme, a quartet
from Edward German’s Merrie England.
With the Empire now at war with Germany, in order to assist
Clara Butt raise funds for the Three Arts Women's Unemployment
with Robert Radford and others, she took part in a Sunday Evening
concert in Queen's Hall. Next, Beecham summoned her to Manchester
for an all-Wagner concert on 11 March, in which she sang Senta
in Act III of The Flying Dutchman with Ranalow as the
Dutchman and Hyde as Erik. She also appeared as Eva in the
Quintet and Final Scene of Die Meistersinger. During
this period, Sir Edward Elgar had been working on music that
to involve Agnes Nicholls significantly.
For the Festival of British Music held in Queen's Hall on 13
May, she sang "The Wilderness and the Solitary Place" from
Bantock's "Christ in the Wilderness" and Graham Peel's "The
Lake Isle of Innisfree," with Harty at the piano. On 29
May at a Proms Concert in the Royal Albert Hall, she sang ‘Ah!
fors' è lui’ from La Traviata - an aria
she was called back to encore along with Harty's ‘Sea Gypsy’ and
Peel's ‘Soldier, I wish you well.’ A review of the
above programme tends to support a view long held by British
researcher Dennis Foreman, who in a letter to the author observed, "When
I was going through The Musical Times for my John Coates
article I came across many reports of her song recitals. Far
ranging and innovative they seemed for their time."
Looking back years later, Agnes remembered those wartime years
as rather barren. "...my contracts were all broken. I
was just preparing for another tour through Australia and Africa,
and this time Canada was to be included but I learnt to cook
instead and did very little work until 1918, when Sir Thomas
Beecham brought me back from the wilds of Scotland, where I
canteening, to work for him. I loved coming back to his work;
(though I was very fond of my sailor boys), we had such good
times at His Majesty's in his 1910 season, and I stayed with
him till he gave up his company in 1920."
Elgar takes centre stage
This period of "very little work" did, however, include
a pair of important recordings of music by Elgar. He had composed
incidental music for The Starlight Express, a fanciful
fairy tale first introduced at the Kingsway Theatre during
the 1915 Christmas season of 1915. Alas, it closed a month
leaving Elgar crushed and despondent. His spirits were raised
though when a recording was proposed in February 1916. At Elgar's
insistence, Agnes was asked to sing the music of The Laugher
rather than Clytie Hine, the stage ‘creator.’ Charles
Mott who would soon die on the Somme, the Organ Grinder on
stage, was retained for the recording. Eight excerpts were
three involving Agnes. Issued two months later, The Starlight
Express was well received and sealed Elgar's love affair
with the gramophone.
She had concert activity too. On 9 March 1916 in another Beecham-organized
event, an all-Wagner concert in Manchester, she led off in
Scenes from Act 3 of Die Götterdämmerung as
a Rhinemaiden with Hyde as Siegfried and Radford as Hagen.
Then she intoned
the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and sang Eva in
the quintet and finale of Meistersinger with Frederic
Austin as Sachs, Hyde as Walther and Radford as Pogner. A recital
on 11 March in Bournemouth "arranged by Graham Peel afforded
great delight by reason of the exceedingly artistic singing
and pianoforte playing of Miss Agnes Nicholls and Mr. Frederick
Elgar had a second project in the works, a wartime trilogy,
known as The Spirit of England. He composed the second
song (To Women) and the third (For the Fallen) in time for
tenor John Booth to sing them during one of Clara Butt's wartime
charity fund-raising events. Butt had organized a week long
series of concerts in London beginning on 6 May, 1916 with
of Gerontius as its centre-piece with the great lady as
The Angel, Elwes as Gerontius, Herbert Brown as The Priest
Mott as Angel of the Agony. Elgar conducted his Spirit songs
at each concert. The week in London was preceded by tryouts
in Leeds on 3 May and in Bradford the next day. It worked like
each concert being a huge success. Of Agnes's effort, Clara
Butt said she "had never heard more perfect singing."
In June Agnes took part in that first recording of Liza Lehmann's In
a Persian Garden which proved a challenge for the recording
team. Apropos the problems in committing the work to wax, the
late Wayne Turner, a basso and vocal record aficionado, argued, "It
seems strange HMV chose Agnes Nicholls, a renowned Wagnerian
soprano but hardly suitable for music like this. It is not surprising
she had many attempts to record the soprano songs; the top C
I'm afraid is pretty dire. George Baker told me she had to stand
well behind the other singers...it is difficult to get a blend..." That
said, Lehmann's exotic tale is well worth hearing and remains
a fine work with sterling singing by Hubert Eisdell and Edna
Although she was simply filling in for New Zealand soprano
Rosina Buckman, Agnes probably felt more comfortable at the
Proms on 29 December, singing an aria from Il Trovatore and
Act 3, Scene 1 of Lohengrin with d'Oisly. Elgar's unfinished Spirit
of England had struck a chord amongst the beleaguered populace
so, when she went to Manchester on 15 March 1917 for more Wagner
with the Hallé forces, she was urged to include Elgar's
work. After singing in two scenes from Act I of Lohengrin with
Hyde, Radford, Gwladys Roberts and Powell Edwards and the Walküre Act
I Love Duet with Hyde, ‘by special request’ she added ‘For
the Fallen.’ The next day in Bradford, the group gave
much the same concert, although here Agnes led off with both Spirit songs.
Oddly Beecham left others to conduct the Elgar on both occasions.
When Elgar finally completed part one of the Spirit, ‘The
Fourth of August,’ the world première of the complete
work took place on 4 October 1917 in Birmingham with soprano
Rosina Buckman and an orchestra led by Appleby Matthews. Agnes's
turn to sing the music came in Leeds on 31 October. Then, on
24 November in the Royal Albert Hall with Gervase Elwes, she "had
scope especially in the third part, of which a beautiful little
phrase `We will remember them' lingers in the memory." Agnes,
Caroline Hatchard and one or two others showed an affinity for
this music, so they had “the task and privilege of revelation
throughout Britain of the loftiest musical thought uttered
in these fateful years."
On the occasion of its Centenary Concert in Victoria Hall on
14 March 1918, the Halifax Choral Society had hoped to have
Agnes sing The Spirit of England with Webster Millar,
but she was taken ill and Caroline Hatchard sang instead. Fully
on 29 March, Agnes was able to join Beecham at the Free Trade
Hall in Manchester for a Good Friday concert with Walter Hyde
and Robert Parker when she sang ‘Senta's Ballad’ and ‘Elsa's
Rejoins the Beecham Company
With Mignon Nevada and Rosina Buckman on the sidelines, Beecham
needed a soprano so he urged Agnes to join his forces at London’s
Drury Lane Theatre. She arrived just as the season was drawing
to a close and at the matinée on 6 April, the last day,
she displayed her wares as Countess in The Marriage of Figaro.
Up to this point, the role had been owned by Miriam Licette,
who was now busy singing Louise and Constanze. Beecham immediately
penciled Agnes's name into his future plans. When the Company
went to Birmingham and Manchester, she was heard as the Countess
and as Micaëla in Carmen. In the Paris version
of Tannhäuser in
Manchester on 13 May, Mullings and Gladys Ancrum marched truly
to Beecham's beat but "one's chief criticism of Agnes Nicholls
in the part of Elisabeth would be that she showed less of this
rhythmical resilience while displaying such ample vocal resource." A
more positive reaction came at Drury Lane in June when she was
deemed "A great acquisition whose experience and fine
voice were brought to bear on the part of Elisabeth in Tannhäuser."
That summer Isidore de Lara was doing the nation a valuable
service by organizing concerts to raise funds for war-related
In June to aid the Italian Red Cross, he presented three concerts
at Queen’s Hall under the banner of a "Festival of
Italian Music." At the first on 6 June, Agnes joined Edna
Thornton in Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. Returning to a
Teutonic repertory at Drury Lane on 8 June, she sang Elisabeth
to the Tannhäuser of
Frank Mullings and the Herman of Norman Allin, and on 14 June,
with a "finely represented" Brünnhilde, she
helped ensure The Valkyrie was "the most notable event of
the season." After a Pamina in The Magic Flute on
the 24th, Italian Opera beckoned so she supplied
Trovatore Leonora. She returned to Queen's Hall on the
29th for de Lara's third concert, a performance of the Verdi Requiem with
Ethel Peake, Alfred Heather, Frederick Ranalow and the Alexandra
Palace Choir under Beecham. Then at Drury Lane on 2 July, she
assumed the role of Constanze in Il Seraglio with d'Oisly
as Belmont and Radford as Osmin.
With Elgar's Spirit of England much in demand, Agnes
and tenor William Hayle sang the music with the Glasgow Choral
on 16 November 1918, when Parry's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day was
also given. Illness kept her from repeating the work in Bradford
on 22 November and in Manchester the following evening.
At Drury Lane in the Spring of 1919, her assignments included
Pamina on 25 March, Elisabeth at a matinée performance
of Tannhäuser led by Eugène Goossens Sr.,
a Countess in Figaro (on 2 April), with Beecham, and
on 3 May, at season’s end, Mistress Ford on 4 July, returning
the following evening for an Aida with Frederick Blamey
and Edna Thornton.
During his Winter season at Covent Garden, which got underway
on 3 November 1919, Beecham presented Agnes in six productions.
On the 6th, she was Mistress Ford in Falstaff with the title
role taken by Frederick Ranalow in a performance the maestro
conducted. Then, in three performances of Mascagni's Cavalleria
Rusticana, she shared Santuzza with Elsa Stralia while
d'Oisly and Blamey took turns as the reckless Turiddu. She
was also scheduled
for a concert in Bradford on 22 November but she became so
ill that her doctor forbade her to appear. She was fully recovered
on 24 February as Beecham resumed at the Covent Garden in what
would be his last hurrah. She sang a single Constanze in Il
Seraglio and shared Elisabeth in seven Tannhäusers with
Elsa Stralia and Rosina Buckman, also the Countess role in The
Marriage of Figaro with Miriam Licette in three performances.
Next in the sequence came Isolde in Tristan and Isolde,
and here her individuality drew praise along with her "pure
tone and absence of sprechgesang." The curtain came
down on Beecham’s current contribution to London’s
musical life on 10 April 1920. Five months later a receiving
order in bankruptcy was offered against Sir Thomas Beecham,
and the Beecham Opera Company went into voluntary liquidation.
The singers went their separate ways. Agnes had no worries
for her calendar contained many entries such as the famous
Festival at the Crystal Palace on 19 June and undoubted pleasures
with the Huddersfield Music Club on 15 December, singing songs
with Paul Kilborn at the piano.
She had been absent from Hull (then England’s largest fishing
ports) for some time, so it must have been gratifying for all
concerned when she joined the city’s Vocal Society on
19 January, 1921 to sing in Elgar's King Olaf, with
Webster Millar and Charles Knowles. On 17 November, she shared
evening with the Choral Society of Carlisle and a band and
chorus of two hundred and fifty at the Drill Hall. With Dr.
F. W. Wadley
conducting, she sang Schubert's `Song of Miriam' and Mendelssohn's
`Hear my prayer' while the chorus let loose in Elgar's The
The soprano and Herbert Brown sang Wagner's music in Middlesbrough
on 16 February 1922 at a concert that celebrated the retirement
of Dr. Killburn, who had just entered his eightieth year, after
forty years of service to music. Then at a Hallé concert
- family affair - "A Beethoven programme was offered on
3 March, 1922, demonstrating the contrast between Beethoven in
his first Symphony (C Major) and his last (the Choral). Mr. Hamilton
Harty missed some of the sublimity of the opening of the latter,
but gave a superb reading of the scherzo. The choir had the greatest
triumph, its tone being rich, fine in substance, and the extreme
pitch was reached easily. Miss Agnes Nicholls, Miss Sonnenberg,
Mr. Herbert [sic] Eisdell, and Mr. George Parker were the solo
quartet, and Miss Nicholls sang the air `Ah! perfido'..."
In April, she visited Columbia studios to record, with her
husband at the piano. The session captured the exquisite "Have you
seen but a whyte Lillie grow" and "Come my own one,
come my dear one," from George Butterworth's collection
of Sussex folk songs. Collectors will be interested to know that
she also recorded ‘Vissi d’arte’, her only
example of Italian opera. Regrettably this recording was a disaster.
She was placed far from the horn, and the voice sounds both distant
and weak. It was never published. Two of these un-issued discs
appeared on an Agnes Nicholls LP produced by Symposium Records
in 1987, transferred from test pressings. Thankfully the ‘Vissi
d’arte’ has survived. Let us hope it will appear
on a future reissue.
By this time, the British National Opera Company (BNOC) which
had been formed by the conductor Percy Pitt and other sponsors
was rapidly taking the place of the defunct Beecham Company.
During the organization’s initial visit to Covent Garden,
Agnes sang the first of three Aidas on 10 May 1922 with
Mullings and later Hughes Macklin as Radames. She added Sieglinde
in The Valkyrie on 16 May with Hyde, Thornton, Whitehill
and Florence Austral in her debut as Brünnhilde. As the
season progressed, she sang in Siegfried on 1 June, Tannhäuser on
10 June and The Marriage of Figaro on 13 June.
The following year Agnes sang Sieglinde in The Valkyrie with
Austral, Hyde, Parker and Radford/Allin on 17 May under Albert
Coates followed by Harty. Then, again under the baton of her
husband, the Countess in a pair of Figaros, with Lillian
Stanford as Susannah, Maggie Teyte then Doris Lemon as Cherubino,
Raymond Ellis as Figaro and, in the small role of Bartolo,
the stalwart Robert Radford. Then, as part of the June Birthday
King George V conferred upon her a richly deserved C.B.E. as “leading
soprano in both oratorio and opera.” The award, Commander
of the Order of the British Empire’, carried no title,
but, after Harty was knighted three years later, she became
Lady Harty C.B.E. Back at work, she took part in a series of
concerts in Manchester in October for the Wholesale Co-operative
Society, sharing the platform with fellow songbirds Dorothy
Silk and Miriam Licette.
Early in 1924, with the Hallé forces in Manchester,
she sang in Act II of The Valkyrie with Rose Myrtil,
Frank Mullings, Norman Allin and Clifford Moon, while in the
from Tristan, Agnes and Mullings "ventured into an
intimate tenderness of style which was something of a revelation
even to the most experienced Wagnerians in the hall." Notable
during BNOC's 1924 season at Covent Garden was the presence
of Melba, who would sing Mimi in La Bohème in
support of opera in English. Before the first performance on
Sir William McCormick asked Agnes to present Dame Nellie with
a tortoise shell manicure set with matching case, with initials
`N M' in silver on the lid, "a gift to the greatest Queen
of Song with the love and gratitude of the British National Opera
Company." A month later a lone outing (1 February), as
Sieglinde in The Valkyrie with Austral, Thornton, Hyde,
Parker and Allin proved to be Agnes’s last performance with BNOC in
London. However, there seemed no end to the succession of country-wide
performances, for among the next, one traced was Mendelssohn’s
St. Paul;, which took place in Preston, in North-West England,
on the 20th with Edyth Kirbye, Walter Widdop and,
most interestingly, Peter Dawson.
As one of the nation’s most celebrated artists she remained
much in demand for opera, oratorio and concert engagements. In
1926 she intended to visit Belfast and Dublin for concerts organized
by a friend of her husband, "People's Impresario" Wilfred
Stephenson, but illness prevented the trip. She continued to
sing in concerts until, plagued by a thyroid condition, she chose
finally to retire, leaving the Ibbs & Tillett register
in 1930. Two years earlier on 26 October 1928, during the BNOC's
first performance in Edinburgh of Verdi's Falstaff.
She bade farewell to the operatic stage as Mistress Ford under
In the mid-1930s, Harty began to experience bouts of weakness
and eventually a brain tumour was diagnosed. He underwent painful
radiation treatment that cost him an eye but he was able to
resume his music making. By the time World War Two broke out,
again began to fail. After their home in London was bombed,
they took a flat in Brighton and there, on England’s
south coast, Sir Hamilton Harty passed away in 1941.
Years before, Agnes had established herself as a successful
teacher of voice. "As a person," wrote Parry Jones, "she
was the essence of kindness and joviality. I remember her with
gratitude the many lovely lunches we had together, in company
with her pupil Rose Alper, the famous South African soprano.
There was never a dull moment. She enjoyed everything the table
had to offer with great relish. And she delighted in excellent
conversation. There was no moping in her company."
In later years, she resided in St. John's Wood, a smart suburb
where a number of fellow musicians lived. It was there on 21
September 1959 that Agnes, Lady Harty, C.B.E., died of heart
failure at age 83. Earlier that year, she had reminisced at
a meeting of London’s Recorded Vocal Art Society. Considering
that she had suffered from rheumatic fever in childhood, Agnes
Nicholls was blessed with a long life and a truly distinguished
career, content to spend most of it in the vast reaches of
an empire on which the sun never set.
It is only left for Parry Jones, a colleague since 1917, to
was always an inspiration, tremendously alive. Her singing
I remember as first rate in technique, but with technique as
servant, with great insight into the text, and style of the
music; and a great personal gift of holding one's interest
attention. She had eloquence, and a great sweep, and never
committed the unpardonable sin of being dull. I saw her last
as Mistress Ford in Falstaff. It was Shakespeare as
well as Verdi."
The Editor of The Record Collector, Larry Lustig decided it
would be informative to add an excerpt of a meeting in 1967
between P.G. Hurst and John Freestone
in which Agnes Nicholls was discussed and a few of her records were played.
J.F. P.G. you knew Agnes Nicholls very well indeed, I know, and you introduced
her to the Recorded Vocal Art Society when she came a few years ago (on 9 April
1959); the programme was ‘Life of a singer. Would you like to say something
P.G. I remember the occasion very well, when I introduced her, and I greatly
enjoyed it. I consider her the greatest and most accomplished of all English
singers. I knew her very well in later years. In fact she came down to stay
with us at Twineham [a village in Sussex] in 1940. In her heyday I heard her
often in opera and concert. I’d like to play Cowen’s ‘At mid
hour of night’.
J.F. Now you heard that earlier in the afternoon. Before you play it, didn’t
you think that she showed not her dramatic qualities, but other qualities?
Was there anything you heard in the record that would convey to you the singing
P.G. Well of course her style was the grand style really, not these small songs,
things like ‘Ocean, thou mighty monster’, the big things. Even her
treatment of this little song is so masterly that I think it worth playing for
its own sake. But she didn’t make a great many at the time of what I
call the heyday of recording.
J.F. The point I noticed in the singing again was the sustained quality of
the high notes, which come off beautifully.
P.G Yes, and the steadiness. There was a kind of Melba quality… [the
record is played].
APPENDIX A - a sampling of AGNES NICHOLLS in Messiah
In Hull on Good Friday, 1903, she sang Messiah at the Alexandra Theatre
with Belle Cole, Herbert Grover and Ivor Foster.
For the Royal Choral Society at the Royal Albert Hall a Messiah that
signalled the arrival of 1908. Agnes was joined by Ada Crossley, Lloyd Chandos
She returned to the Royal Albert Hall for the New Year's Messiah in
1910 with Chandos and Watkin Mills again but with Gwladys Roberts now as contralto
To mark the coming of 1914, Agnes sang Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall
with Louise Kirkby Lunn, Ben Davies and David Evans.
For Messiah at Christmas in Manchester on 20 December 1917, Agnes attended
with Olga Haley, Maurice d'Oisly and Robert Radford with Beecham leading the
Hallé Orchestra and Choir.
She took part in the Glasgow Choral Union's 1920 New Year's Day Messiah with
John Coates, Margaret Balfour and Herbert Brown as Warren T. Clemens conducted
the Scottish Orchestra. The work's appeal held true.
Of many Messiahs given at Easter in 1920, one singled out by Musical
Times was by the Royal Choral Society at the Royal Albert Hall on Good Friday,
by Sir Frederick Bridge. "It attracted a great audience who were equally
pleased by the choral singing and with the solo work of Mesdames Agnes Nicholls
and Astra Desmond and Messrs Coates and Allin."
APPENDIX B - AT THE THREE CHOIRS FESTIVAL, including Messiah
After her college days introduction in 1897, Agnes sang
in Hereford on 14 September 1906 in Elgar's The Apostles with Muriel
Foster, John Coates, William Higley, Dalton Baker and David Ffrangçon
In 1907, it was a busy time in Gloucester: on 11 September she sang in The
Kingdom with Ada Forrest, Coates and Ffrangçon-Davies. She was prominent
in Mendelssohn's Hymn of Praise and the season's effective novelty,
Granville Bantock's cantata, Christ in the Wilderness in company with
Davies. Finally there was an appearance on the 13th in Messiah with
Coates, Forrest and Baker.
On 8 September 1908, Agnes visited Worcester to sing Elijah with Coates,
Clara Butt and Charles W. Clark. The Kingdom followed on the 9th with
Coates, Alice Lakin and William Higley. To conclude, there was Messiah in
company with Coates, Butt and Radford.
At Hereford in 1909 she sang in The Apostles on 7 September with Coates,
Phyllis Lett, Higley, Baker and Frederic Austin. On the 8th she joined Coates
in a scene from Act I of Die Walküre and on the 10th Messiah with
Coates, Ada Crossley and William Higley.
In 1910 at Gloucester, on 7 September, she began by singing "Va! Je t'ai
pardonne" from Romeo et Juliette with John Coates. On the 8th she
sang Gethsemane by Granville Bantock with Coates, Simpson and Austin
and in Hymn of Praise with Coates and Simpson. On the 9th,
her Messiah partners
were Coates, Lett and Radford.
On 12 September 1911 at Worcester, Agnes sang Elijah with Kirkby Lunn,
Le Mar, Frederick Ranalow and Austin.
The 1914 season was cancelled due to the war, and the festival remained silent
throughout the war years.
In 1921, she returned to Hereford on 6 September for Elijah with Coates,
Lett and Radford and the next day in The Apostles with Coates, Lett,
Radford, George Parker and Norman Allin.
On 6 September 1922 at Gloucester, she sang in The Apostles with Coates,
Lett, Parker, Heyner and Allin and the next day in The Kingdom with
Coates, Lett and Herbert Heyner.
The Festival in 1923 began on 4 September with Elijah with Agnes, Coates,
Leila Megane and Heyner and the next day The Kingdom with the same artists.
In 1924, she sang Elijah on 9 September with Coates, Haley and Radford; The
Kingdom on the 11th with Coates, Olga Haley and Heyner.
In 1925 she sang in The Apostles at Gloucester with Coates, Astra Desmond,
Heyner, Horace Stevens and Allin.
In 1926 she joined Coates for further adventures: The Apostles on 7
September with Haley and Heyner, Stevens and Allin; the next day in The Kingdom and
in Parry's War and Peace with Haley and Heyner.
This article originally appeared in the Record Collector, Vol. 53, No.
1, March 2008 and is available here through the cooperation of the Editor
My original paragraphs 2 & 3 represent my wish to begin in
a light-hearted manner. In his wisdom, my great friend, the Editor, opted
to replace my words with far more appropriate text.
A question...why were forty-three of the fifty-eight records made by the English
dramatic soprano, Agnes Nicholls, never released? Most claim this calamity
was due to her enormous voice overloading the primitive recording apparatus,
blasting and distortion and ruling out release. But Dennis Foreman, an authority
on early vocal records, disagrees: "I can never understand all this guff
that her voice was too powerful for the recording horn. If they could record
an aging Tamagno, a fully fit Leon Escolais and Titta Ruffo, they should have
been able to cope with Agnes Nicholls. More like incompetence I'd think"...
But, Dennis, for so many discs? Surely that's a lot of incompetence!
A second theory argues that she was super critical so some "rejects" may
actually have been "keepers." It is a controversy sure to endure.
This is especially sad for Agnes Nicholls was unquestionably an accomplished
and a beloved figure in English music. Close scrutiny of her few records will
reveal, in the softer passages, an incredible sweetness while elsewhere she
sounds wonderfully firm and assured. Undoubtedly, she reached many in a very
way. Indeed her nation rewarded her handsomely for her achievements. And yet,
amongst the four singers who recorded Liza Lehmann's In a Persian Garden in
1916, Agnes was the least successful as listeners can easily tell.
Two Centuries of Music in Hull by Norman Staveley, Hutton Press, 1999.
Harold Rosenthal: Two Centuries of Opera at Covent Garden.
Sir Thomas Beecham - A Calendar of his Concert and Theatrical Performances
(1985) by Maurice Parker and Supplement (1998) by Tony Benson - UK Beecham
Most quotations stem from writings by the singer in "A Vignette" OPERA,
1923, OPERA FOR THE ANTIPODES by Alison Gyger, Currency Press, 1990, The Musical
Times and Parry Jones's observations in his tribute in OPERA, Vol. 10, No.
John Coates" by Dennis Foreman, THE RECORD COLLECTOR Vol. 38, No, 2
TRUE ARTIST AND TRUE FRIEND - a biography of Hans Richter by Christopher Fifield,
Clarendon Press, 1993
Radio Times, 3 October 1957
MUSIC IN ENGLAND 1885 - 1920 by Lewis Foreman, Thames Publishing, 1994
In addition to those mentioned in the text, I would like especially to thank
Paul Campion in London for his painstaking research into the Nicholls family
background; also Dame Norma Major for background on British awards and Alan
Turner and Graham Oakes for other useful information. I am also indebted to
Bott in Bermuda for taking an interest and for making many helpful changes
and additions to the text, also to his secretary Sandy Gascoyne.
The editor also offered thanks to Michael Letchford, Michael Bott and Christian
Zwarg for their further help with the discography.