THE MARCH EAST ANGLIA
For my earlier essay on this subject see my blog for July 3 2011, RAILWAY MUSIC; but since writing that I have found out much more about the Musical Director of GEMS, the Great Eastern Musical Society.
Unusually (for a composer born in the middle years of the century before last) this music is still in copyright in this country. So is his children’s book first published over 100 years ago and still regularly reprinted (although the illustrations are in the public domain). This is my understanding at any rate. Ivimey lived to a great age, dying at the age of 92 or 93 as recently as 1961 when I was twelve. It is remarkable to think that he lived into the modern age of motorways (the M1 was opened in 1959) and the Mini (also 1959). This is a man who in 1888 had travelled to his first interview for a teaching post by horse and gig in a snow storm.
He was born in what is now east London, but at the time of his birth – 1868 – West Ham is given as part of Essex. He was educated as a pupil of Henry Gadsby, a distinguished but largely self-taught musician who was a founding professor at the Guildhall School of Music where Ivimey first educated in music. Somewhere along the way he was awarded a D. Music at Oxford University. At the age of 20 in 1888 he was appointed assistant Music Master at Wellington College, then quite a young Public School (it was built as a monument to the Duke of Wellington and opened in 1859). As you might expect the parents were largely Army officers. After two years he was appointed to a much older school, Harrow in a similar capacity. Harrow is famous for its school songs of which Forty Years On is perhaps the best known. A pupil of Harrow at this time was one Winston Churchill, but not I think a musical one!
Ivimey resigned from Harrow school in 1893. Since 1891 he had been organist of St Paul’s, Onslow Square, South Kensington and before that had another church appointment. Presumably he intended to concentrate on his work as an organist, having just qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. He was divorced from his first wife in 1907. This was an much more unusual occurrence than it has since become. The couple had ben married in 1893 and had two children, a boy and a girl. The divorce was on the wife’s petition. John Ivimey only remarried after his former wife’s death in 1947. By then he was retired and was living in the town of Marlborough.
From 1905 he was the Musical Director of the Cambridge Footlights for a decade. This was only a part time job that only occupied him when a production was in rogress. The Cambridge Footlights Club has produced a number of well-known performers over the years, notably Peter Cook and more recently Stephen Fry. After losing his employment as church organist he was a lecturer in adult education in London for 4 years before the First World War. In 1919 he was made Director of Music at Marlborough College (now perhaps best known as the Duchess of Cambridge’s alma mater) from which he retired in 1933.
1904 was the year he published his magnum opus (not a piece of music however), the children’s book the Complete Version of Ye Three Blind Mice. This was about the time when Warne, his publishers, were publishing Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit (1902). His Three Blind Mice has been republished 36 times in Britain, Australia and the United States; it has even been published in Africans although it is currently out of print. The most recent edition dates from the twenty-first century. The story is an account of the three blind mice which is made less dreadful (but also less true to life) by the eventual restoration of the animals’ sight. Their tails also grew again through the application of a bottle of patent medicine – from a Re-Tail Chemist! The work owes much of its popularity, I believe, to the excellent illustrations by Walton Courbold, about half of which were in colour. Colour printing was a very recent development when this was first published and must have been a delight to children. There is a musical element of course, with the score of the round Three Blind Mice printed as a frontispiece.
East Anglia was written for the Great Eastern Railway Musical Society. It was published by the author and there is no copy referred to in the list of his publications in the British Library catalogue, so I assume it is quite rare. The first performance of the march was given (in the orchestral version –which would have been in manuscript, and must have been lost) in 1909 at the Great Eastern Hotel (Liverpool Street Station) in London.
From 1889 for over 10 years his brother Joseph, a violinist, ran a series of chamber music concerts at Surbiton with his quartet. J. W. Ivimey played the piano at concerts they gave. (Although not himself a violinist he was prevailed upon to take the place of a second violin who was indisposed. He wrote a piece for the quartet with exacting parts for other players, who were too engrossed to notice that the second violin part consisted mainly of notes played on the open strings!) They traditionally ended their performances with Beethoven’s septet in E flat op 20. In 1920 Joseph was conductor of the Great Western Railway Musical Society. The family seems to have had affinity with railways.
You will notice the march East Anglia was the dedication to Lady Claud Hamilton at its head. This lady’s husband Lord Claud Hamilton was the Chairman of the Great Eastern, and had a famous type of express engine named after him (see my blog for February 25 2012 for these locomotives). You will observe that the March was therefore Expressly written for the music society! The Great Eastern Musical Society was the idea of another director of the railway, William Johnson Galloway, an enthusiastic amateur. The choir and orchestra were drawn exclusively from employees of the railway. It was formed in 1908, the year previous to the first performance of the March East Anglia. With an informality far in advance of its time the concerts were relaxed affairs with the audience sitting not in rows but around tables in the Hamilton Hall of the hotel. Refreshments were served between items. Even today concerts are not so agreeable! The society acquired an impressive reputation performing far beyond East Anglia, in such places as York and Edinburgh, and could call on the services of the best professional conductors of the time.
The March is a jolly piece of light music, but it has a central section of quite exotic chromatic harmonies. I have been able to enjoy it through producing a midi version to play on my computer. Apart from his position of Musical Director of the Great Eastern Musical Society (and that job was based in London) Ivimey does not seem to have had much connection with East Anglia, although being born in Essex being involved with the Cambridge Footlights give him a slightly “eastern” bearing. Nevertheless, he was really a Londoner. He travelled in East Anglia however, and during the First World War he was staying Lowestoft when it was hit by a Zeppelin raid. This was in September of 1915, although he does not reveal what he was doing there. Air raids were a new a terrifying experience at the time, although by comparison with Second World War air raids the bombing from airships scarcely made any impression on the country.
In 1906 he was appointed organist of Dulwich College chapel, and he remained at Dulwich until 1910. During the time he was at Dulwich he would have taught Gordon Jacob, the composer whose arrangement of the National Anthem was used at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. On leaving Dulwich College in 1910b he worked lecturing on music at an evening institutes in London, but this employment ceased on the outbreak of war in August 1914. It was while he was in Cambridge for May Week 1914, conducting a musical he had written for the Footlights Revue that he was asked if he would consider another appointment as school musician. At the time he had no reason to believe his adult education duties would soon be at an end. He was in the event glad to return to school employment. Cheltenham, the school that employed him, is another school of the Victorian era; it was founded in 1841 by two residents “for the education of the sons of gentlemen”.
The Great War was a overturning the lives of younger men, and Mr Dyer the organist of Cheltenham College was leaving to join the Navy. Ivimey spent the war years happily fulfilling the organist’s duties at Cheltenham but with return of peace Mr Dyer returned from the Navy and resumed his former employment. Fortunately in 1919 Ivimey was offered the position of Musical Director of Marlborough College. Just as Wellington was intended for the sons of military families so Marlborough was originally aimed at the sons of Church of England clergymen. Those whose parents were not in holy orders paid more, thereby subsidising the members of the cloth. Arriving at the school in the early 1920s was the young Louis Macniece, later namely for his poetry. Another poet who was educated at Marlborough during these years was John Betjeman. In his blank verse autobiography Summoned by Bells, Betjeman devotes a chapter to his life at Marlborough. It wasn’t all good, but the place he loved was the school chapel – Ivimey’s special domain.
After retiring from his final position at Marlborough College in 1933 he wrote his memoirs of a lifetime in school teaching in 1936 (costing 3/6). Boys and Music was a short paperback of 99 pages and mostly aimed (I suspect) at old boys of Marlborough and other distinguished public schools where he had taught. However he also directed it more generally at anybody with a son at public school, who wished to learn more about music teaching. This was a subject which had not been dealt with before. The book was published in Marlborough by the local paper. With an impressive list of pupils whom he had taught and a diverse composing and writing career I feel John Ivimey deserves this short biography. Besides the works already mentioned, the following are those publications I know of, but it is undoubtedly incomplete (World Cat mentions 78 works):
Part-writing for Beginners, Crispinian (Hymn), Six Kyries suitable for congregational use, Six Introits adapted from Palestrina ‘Congaudeat turbo fidelium’, Eleventh Century Carol, (arranged by) Thou comest here to the Land. Arranged for S. A. T. B. The Baby on the Shore. Arranged as a Quartette for male voices, The Lyrics of the New Dean. A musical absurdity in 2 acts, Clacton-on-Sea Gavotte, The Road to Ballybay, Our Girls. Burlesque operatic duet for tenor and baritone, The Headmistress (A Musical Extravaganza In Two Acts), O God of Love Vesper Hymn, The Harvest Home A Berkshire Ballad, Flagrant Flapper (Chorus), The British Navy, song, Eight Songs from the Hon’ary Degree, Trio in D, Salonstucke in G for the Pianoforte Op. 2. No. 1 & 2, Graceful Dance in the olden Style for Pianoforte Op. 3. No. 1, Bourree in the olden Style for the Pianoforte Op. 3. No. 2, Minuet in the olden Style, for the Pianoforte. Op. 3. No. 3, Chant d’amour, for Violoncello and Pianoforte. Op. 4, A Spring Morning. Idyll for the Pianoforte. Op. 5, The Witch of the Wood : an operetta for children in one act Op. 8, Andante religioso in E flat. for Organ Op. 9. Sonata in D Major for the Organ Op. 10 (1922).