David Shapiro, Friend of Music in the Round and guest blogger, talks about a recent discussion group meeting that focused on the poet and composer Ivor Gurney
At the suggestion of Music in the Round, a small group of Friends formed a music discussion group. We’ve been meeting every couple of months for lively and informal discussions of chamber music. Sometimes we talk about music to be performed in an upcoming concert, listening together to recordings of the works. Or we hear an informal presentation on a related topic.
“I knew little of Gurney, and was eager to learn from others in the group more familiar with his work.”
Jane Clements, who had sung Gurney’s songs, introduced us to Severn Meadows, the only published setting by Gurney of his own words, and played recordings of By a Bierside, In Flanders, and Sleep. Jane found a similar relationship between voice and piano as in Schubert’s songs. Geographer Margaret Roberts brought along a recent book by her colleague and friend Eleanor Rawling: Ivor Gurney’s Gloucestershire: Exploring Poetry and Place. Writer and creative writing teacher Liz Cashdan shared her responses to some of Gurney’s poems, noting for example the musicality of their rhythms, reflecting the influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins. We talked about Gurney’s experience of the Great War, including both comradeship and trauma. As a retired clinical psychologist, I was drawn to speculate about the nature and origins of the mental health problems that resulted in his long-term hospitalisation, during which he wrote many fine poems, long unpublished. By coincidence, Tim Kendall’s BBC4 programme, Ivor Gurney, the poet who loved the war, went out that evening so we watched it together.
“It was exciting to bring together our disparate strands of insight into Gurney’s music and poetry.”
Music in the Round’s concerts have informed my lifelong musical learning for 30 years, extending and challenging my appreciation of a widening repertoire. The discussion group adds a new dimension, as I learn from fellow audience-members, some of whom I thought I knew quite well, things I didn’t know they knew. This can only deepen the bonds amongst us. These bonds add to the intense quality of shared concentration we’ve been said to communicate to the musicians playing for us in the Studio. Music in the Round plays a big part in all our lives.
Visit our website for more details of the At the Front concert on Thursday 15 May at 7.15pm, featuring music and songs by Schumann, Barber, Butterworth and Gurney, performed by Matthew Brook (baritone), Anna Markland (piano) and Ensemble 360.