We are grateful that Swale Borough Council have given a generous donation to help fund our first concert this season by ‘Fine Arts Brass’, at Kemsley Village Hall, on Friday October 15 th, 7.30 pm. We take heart from this support and hope for more opportunities in the future to collaborate with SBC in the musical life of Swale.
And for our second concert…
PAVAO STRING QUARTET
Friday 12 th November, 7.45 pm
Sittingbourne Community College
‘ Four finer musicians you could not come across’ (Henry Kelly, Classic FM)
‘Five Stars’ (Financial Times)
‘Sparkling performance’ (Sean Rafferty, Radio 3)
Arrangements of songs by Gershwin will be followed by two popular string quartets.
Arnold Bax’s richly melodic String Quartet No 1 was written in 1918. Dvorak wrote his lovely F Major ‘American’ String Quartet in 1893, while he was Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. The second movement has echoes of an African-American spiritual, as does his New World Symphony composed also in the USA. Dvorak supported the belief that American composers should look to African-American and Native-American music to develop a national style, just as he himself drew much on Czech folk music. Incidentally, Bax was a friend of E J Moeran (see below).
Composer E J Moeran’s link with Swale
Monica McCabe has unearthed a remarkable piece of local history:
Thanks to detective work by PhD student, Ian Maxwell, an intriguing story has been uncovered, linking the composer E J Moeran with the Swale district. Moeran was one of the English romantic pastoralists of the early 20 th Century and a close friend of Peter Warlock and Frederick Delius. Monica writes that she was glancing through the September edition of the British Music Society News when she noticed, in Maxwell’s article about Moeran, a mention of Gore Court, Tunstall. She succeeded in making contact with Ian Maxwell in Germany, and she has put the following story together with the help of his assiduous research, and the added help of local historian, Helen Allison, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum, and Meresborough Books.
E J Moeran was of Anglo-Irish ancestry and his music evokes particularly the landscapes of Ireland and Norfolk. Moeran’s grandfather was a talented musician from King’s Lynn who married Esther Smeed from Kent. Esther died two years later giving birth to a daughter, Ada Esther. When the child’s father quickly remarried, her maternal grandfather, George Smeed, made the baby a ward-in-chancery and brought her to his home in Tunstall, near Sittingbourne, where she grew up in the family mansion, Gore Court.
George Smeed’s own story is worthy of a Dickens novel, and the two could well have met since they were both born in 1812 and Dickens lived not far away at Gadds Hill, near Rochester. George is believed to have been one of the many children of a poor widow and was a millionaire magnate. He became a smuggler but made his fortune as a local brick maker, barge owner and industrialist. When he bought Gore Court one of the local gentry wrote, ‘Unfortunately Gore Court has been bought by some low fellow…’ However, George Smeed’s bricks built much of 19 th Century London, including the new Houses of Parliament, King’s Cross Station, Tower Bridge and the Victorian Underground system.
Ada Esther was striking, intelligent and well educated. When her grandfather died she went to live with an aunt in St. Paul’s Vicarage Upper Norwood, where she met the young curate, the Rev. Joseph Moeran. They married and had two sons, the second being the composer, E J Moeran, born in 1894. Joseph supplied the main Norfolk connection since his father, the Rev J W W Moeran, EJ’s paternal grandfather, was Vicar of Bacton–on-Sea from 1873 until his retirement in 1910 at the age of 94.
Moeran surely owed much to his mother, nurtured in Swale, while he himself lived for some years in other parts of Kent. Described as a quiet and lonely man, Moeran was severely wounded while serving in the First World War. We owe gratitude to Moeran as a composer, but also as a collector of many English folk songs which otherwise might have been lost forever. His music has rather fallen out of fashion. However, his highly regarded Symphony in G Minor, was last performed at the BBC Proms in 2009. Two recordings of the symphony, particularly recommended, are those conducted by Vernon Handley, on Chandos, and by David Lloyd-Jones, on the budget label Naxos, which is coupled with Moeran’s ‘Sinfonietta’. CDs may be ordered through Swade Music.
FROM THE AGM – 10 th September
TWO NEW DIRECTORS were elected and welcomed onto the SMS Committee. Anne Ryback has taken over from Jeane Holmes as Secretary and Margaret Broughton is our new Treasurer. Warm thanks were expressed to Jeane; she continues as Membership Secretary. Pauline Panton was also welcomed as our new Patron, joining Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.
THE LONG TERM FUTURE of SMS depends upon sustaining and increasing our membership. John McCabe urged all who enjoy SMS concerts to become members, whether or not they can attend all the concerts. Membership, he said, was more than buying a season ticket; it expressed a commitment. As at 24 th September membership stands at about 40. Application forms are included in the Programme for the 2010/11 season, or may be obtained from Jeane Holmes (106, College Road, Sittingbourne, ME10 1LQ).