John (Nicholson) Ireland


Born in Bowden, Cheshire, John Ireland entered the Royal College of Music at the age of 14, studying alongside Holst and Vaughan Williams.  Although initially there to study piano, his interest in composition grew and in 1897 he began lessons with Charles Villiers Stanford.  Upon graduation he earned a living as an organist and choirmaster, gaining stature as a composer until returning to teach at the RCM in 1923, where his pupils included Benjamin Britten.  Inspired by the heritage of England, especially its rich pagan mythology, his works were often based on fantastical themes, as was the case with his tone poems The Forgotten Rite (1913) and Legend (1933).  Crushingly self-critical (a characteristic worsened by Stanford's harsh manner), he came to regret composing certain works including the cantata These Things shall Be (1937), written for the coronation of George VI.  He died in Sussex, amid the rural England he so loved.


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