Author Archives: AESS

Courtney Kenny Award 2020

The final of the Courtney Kenny Award 2020 took place at Tonbridge Schoolon Sunday, March 8th.

AESS Chair, Sarah Leonard welcomed the audience and Courtney Kenny was in attendance. He was pleased to be part of such a large and appreciative audience to which the singers could respond.  Five singers and their pianists performed themed recitals of their own devising lasting up to twenty minutes. 

Brian Parsons explained what the judges were looking for in a closely contested competition – choice of materials blended into a unique recital programme, presentational skills, technical skill in speech and song, commitment and engagement.  

The judges awarded the prizes in the following order: 

1st Prize of £1,000 –        Benjamin Reason     GSMD 
Joint 2nd Prize of £500 – Ceferina Penny         RCM
Joint 2nd Prize of £500 – Stephen Whitford     RAM
Pianist’s Prize of £500 –  Avishka Edirisinghe  RCM  

The judges, Jane Highfield, Brian Parsons and Patricia Williams were impressed by the standard of the performances and the imagination used in devising the programmes.

Written feedback has been sent to everyone who has taken part in the competition to help with developing presentatonal skills and artistry. 

The AESS wishes to thank the judges for both the final and the preliminary rounds, the Headteacher, Marie Wallace and the staff of Tonbridge School, and Michael and Judith Hildesley who loaned the use of their studio facilities at Tagg’s Yard. 

The AESS is extremely grateful to Courtney Kenny for his generosity in sponsoring this award. 
Preliminary round judges: Brian Parsons and Jane Roberson 

The Co-ordinator is Stephen Miles:

The programmes: Joseph Hookway – Tenor                  Amy Laurenson – Piano
States of love from the States
Love in the dictionary            Funk & Wagnall’s Student Dictionary           Dougherty
I send my heart up to thee                                                  Browning           Beach
In a gondola (extract)                                                         Browning
The farmer’s curst wife Anon. Kohn
The crucifixion                                                                   Anon.                  Barber When roses cease to bloom, dear                                     Dickinson
That I did always love                                                         Dickinson           Heggie  

Julia Martins Solomon – Mezzo-soprano                        Maria Urian – Piano
Time will have his fancy
Under the greenwood tree                                                  Shakespeare        Korngold
To the virgins, to make much of time                                Herrick Sweet chance, that lead my steps abroad                        Davies                 Head
I had no time to hate, because                                           Dickinson
A last year’s rose                                                                 Henley                 Quilter As I walked out one evening                                             Auden Song of a nightclub proprietress                                        Betjeman             Dring
Waitin                                                                                   Weinstein             Bolcom Softened by time’s consummate plush                             Dickinson
Red roses and red noses                                                      Berners                 Berners  

Stephen Whitford – Baritone                                         Naoki Toyomura – Piano
Songs of the sea
The estuary                                                                          Pitter                     Head
Crossing the bar                                                                  Tennyson
Sea fever                                                                              Masefield               Ireland
Dover Beach                                                                        Arnold
The boat is chafing                                                              Davidson               Gurney 
The dry salvages                                                                 T.S. Eliot
Come unto these yellow sands                                         Shakespeare           Tippett
Full fathom five                                                                   Shakespeare
Devon, O Devon, in wind and rain                                    Newbolt                 Stanford  

Ceferina Penny – Soprano                                              Avishka Edirisinghe – Piano
The shawl                                                                             Atkinson                 Hogben
He wishes for the cloths of heaven                                 Yeats
If there were dreams to sell                                              Beddoes                 Ireland
Oh, oh you will be sorry for that word!                           St Vincent Millay
Finish!                                                                                   Wortley Montagu   Dove
Appeal                                                                                  Brontë
Scots song                                                                            Soutar                     MacMillan
Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage                           Shakespeare
Underneath the abject willow                                           Auden                     Britten  

Benjamin Reason – Baritone                                            Jonathan Eyers – Piano
Meditations on virginity
Areyou meditating on virginity?…                                      Shakespeare
It was a lover and his lass                                                    Shakespeare           Finzi
Church bell at night                                                              Anon. 12thC           Barber
Come again, sweet love                                                       Anon. 16thC           Dowland
Wild nights – wild nights!                                                   Dickinson
Now sleeps the crimson petal                                            Tennyson               Quilter
O, fellow, come the song we had last night                      Shakespeare
Come away, death                                                                 Shakespeare           Korngold
The flea                                                                                 Donne
Promiscuity                                                                           Anon. 9thC              Barber
The sprig of thyme                                                                Trad. Lincolnshire Grainger 

The singers, pianists and judges with Chairman, Sarah Leonard and Courtney Kenny

From left: Benjamin Reason, Stephen Whitford, Courtney Kenny, Avishka Edirisinghe, Ceferina Penny

Catherine Lambert Junior Recital Prize 2019

The AESS Catherine Lambert Junior Recital Prize 2019 

Finals Result The final took place at St. Paul’s Girls’ School, London on Sunday November 17th.   

We are very grateful to St. Paul’s School for letting us use their lovely hall. 

The judges were Jonathan Courage, Rachel Sherry and Tom Marandola. 

There were five young singers aged between 15– 18 in the finals. 

The prizes were awarded in the following order. 
1st Prize £300 – Georgia Tolson 
2nd Prize £200 – Matilda Dawes 
3rd Prize £100 – Amarachi Ohanusi ( given by Coral Gould) 
The Marian Lines Speech Prize £200 – Matilda Dawes. 

The judges particularly liked Georgia’s ease of platform manner and excellent communication of her theme of “ Aspects of Love”.

Our Chairman Sarah Leonard read a letter from Catherine Lambert wishing all the singers luck in the future and encouraging them really to understand and enjoy the words in prose and song. 

The AESS is very grateful to Carolyn Richards for all her hard work in administrating the competition and making the day run so smoothly.  

The finalists and judges

AESS Prizewinners Concert – London Song Festival 2019

The Prize Winners Concert
took place on Thursday November 23rdat Hinde Street Methodist Church, Hinde Street London W1. 

 It was one of the concerts in The London Song Festival organized by Nigel Foster. 

The performers were 
Matilda Wale, soprano – Junior Recital 1st Prize winner
Annabel Kennedy, mezzo – Courtney Kenny Competition 1st Prize winner
Laurence Williamson , bass-baritone– 2nd Prize winner in the Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition
Cameron Richardson-Eames – accompanists prize in the Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition
They had devised an excellent programme loosely around the theme of this year’s London Song Festival concerts about ‘Outsiders’, outsiders in love, outsiders in society and outside reality.

As there was no prize- winning actor available for this concert the singers also read several poems each. 

These, included The Men that don’t fit in by Robert W Service and James Berry’sOutsiders. There were songs by Haydn, Vaughan Williams, Rebecca Clarke, Michael Head, Elgar, Howells and Berthold Goldschmidt. 

The joint 1st prize winning songs from our Composers Competition were given their world premiers.

Annabel Kennedy sang Requiescat by Luciano Williamson accompanied by Cameron Richardson-Eames, and Brian Parsons sang Still Glides the Stream by Owen Ho, accompanied by David Pollard.

 It was a very enjoyable concert, and the performers sang and spoke magnificently.“ I was left wanting more…” said one audience member to me.  The AESS is very grateful to Nigel Foster for enabling us to showcase our superb prize-winners, and we wish them every success in the future. 

The Programme: Nov 21st – AESS/LSF concert
Matilda Wale – soprano (Catherine Lambert Junior Recital Prize)
Annabel Kennedy – mezzo (Courtney Kenny Award)
Laurence Williams – bass-baritone (Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition)
Cameron Richardson-Eames – piano (Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition)

Introduction Robert W Service (1874 – 1958) – The men that don’t fit in

 Outside Love
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Ann Hunter (1742-1821) – My mother bids me bind my hairEdward Thomas (1878 – 1917) Rain
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) – In Dreams (Songs of Travel)
Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) and W B Yeats (1865-1939) – The Cloths of Heaven
Ralph Vaughan Williams and Robert Louis Stevenson – Wither must I wander? (Songs of Travel)

Outside the City
Ralph Vaughan Williams and Robert Louis Stevenson – The Vagabond (Songs of Travel)
Michael Head (1900-1976) and W H Davies (1871-1940) – Sweet chance that led my steps abroad
W H Davies – The Likeness

Prize winning entries from the 2019 Song Writing Competition for Composers (sponsored by the Thompson Educational Trust)
Brian Parsons tenor David Pollard piano 
Owen Ho – Still Glides the Stream (Matthew Arnold)
Luciano Williamson – Requiescat (Oscar Wilde)


Outside SocietyJames Berry (1924-2017) – Outsider
Ralph Vaughan Williams and Mabel Dearmer (1872-1915)(after Paul Verlaine) – The Sky Above the Roof
Edward Elgar (1857-1934) and Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)– Queen Mary’s Song (Seven Lieder)
Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) – Fotheringay 

Outside Contentment
Herbert Howells (1892-1983) and Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)– King David
Joseph Haydn and William Shakespeare (1564-1616)– She never told her love
Outside Reality
George Spaulding (1864-1921) and William Benson Gray – The Volunteer OrganistMargaret Atwood (b1939) 
Michael Head and Bronnie Taylor (1921-1991) – The Singer
Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996_ and James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915) – The Old Ships
Rebecca Clarke and John Masefield (1878-1967) – The Seal Man 

The AESS is very grateful to the London Song Festival for making space for this concert showcasing the enormous talent of our young competition winners, and to the Thompson Educational Trist for sponsoring the Composers Song Writing Competition. 

The prize winnig performers with Brian Parsons and the joint winners of the song writing competition

Unsung Heroes Day 2019


Sunday October 13th 2019

On Sunday October 13th 2019 the AESS put on another of its popular Unsung Heroes events.

The venue was the wonderful, newly opened Vaughan William’s Hall at James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS) in Dulwich, SE London. The featured composers were Arnold Bax, E.J. Moeran and Robin Milford. Holst was a close friend of the Bax brothers, Arnold and Clifford, and Vaughan Williams was an influence on Moeran and a supporter of the music of Milford.

The day started at 11am with a master class given by our Vice-Chairman, Stephen Varcoe to five very good teenagers, pupils of Jags and local teachers.  Sophie Bucknor, Hannah Purnell, Chloe Stiens, George Webb and Olivia Burman. Stephen talked very sensitively to them about the composers of their songs the poems and context, and helped them to think carefully about what the words meant, including old fashioned or poetic words, and gave advice on sharing all this with the audience. Questions at the end included “ where do I look in a concert and exam situation” 

Here is a picture of the beautiful new Vaughan Williams Hall. “Waiting for the Master Class to start” …

After lunch there were very informativetalks about all three composers given by Barbara Alden, Patricia Williams and our special guest speaker, David Pennant, from the Robin Milford Trust. A copy of all that was said is below.

At 3 pm the concert got underway and we heard many songs by Bax, Moeran and Milford that hadn’t been sung for years! The concert was a delight and proved that these indeed were unsung heroes. The singers taking part were Sue Anderson, Patricia Williams, Iain Sneddon, Sarah Leonard, Brian Parsons, Joss Cooper and Clive McCombie. The accompanists were, Patricia Williams, Diana Bickley, Michael Pilkington and David Pollard.  The AESS is very grateful to all the performers for their hard work and committed singing, which made the day such a success.

The AESS is extremely grateful to Patricia Williams, not only for being our Membership Secretary, but also for organizing this event, researching the songs, getting together the performers and making up a programme that had such variety. We are also grateful to Barbara Alden for her research into the Bax family. Lastly we thank JAGS very much for letting us use their impressive new hall and catering facilities. Below is a photo of all the members that took part.

Arnold Bax

When we hear of the lives of composers it is often of their struggles to earn a crust or

achieve recognition, of lives spent in poverty or penury. Not so our three composers

today, each of whom were blessed with private means to support their musical careers.

So – who was Arnold Bax? Some might recognise a Master of the King’s Music from

1942 and others would light on him as a symphonist and the composer of the tone

poems ‘Tintagel ‘ and ‘The Garden of Fand’. He is also credited with popularising the

saying that ‘In life one should try everything once, except incest and Folk Dancing’.

Perhaps studying with the famous folk song collector Cecil Sharp had put him off!

But let’s start at the beginning.

Arnold was born in Streatham, the first of four children of Alfred Ridley Bax, an elderly

and rather remote father and his young wife Charlotte Ellen, whom Arnold described as

eager, pretty and impulsive, ‘something of a benevolent despot.’

Arnold could read the Times by the age of three and had no recollection of how or

when he learned to read music.

Before he was eleven, he was sent to a day school in Balham where he promptly shot

to the top of the class so that the Headmaster had to decree that no boy could win

more than a certain number of prizes.

The family were clearly wealthy and keen to move in more cultured circles. His brother,

the writer and poet Clifford Bax tells the next part of their story.

“In 1896 our family moved to a long, rambling house named Ivybank, at the very top of

Haverstock Hill in Hampstead. The garden was so big that my father sold part of the

land only to watch with dismay the rapid erection of a great red block of flats. However

the garden still contained a small cricket ground, three tennis courts and an apple

orchard. We had already been shown the elements of cricket, and now we ardently

played single wicket games – in the garden during summer and in a twenty-one yard

attic at the top of the house in winter.”

Arnold was such a keen cricketer that when he was twelve, he got sunstroke through

playing and it was during his convalescence that he penned his first composition,

nothing less than a piano sonata. His father formed a private choral society and Arnold

accompanied rehearsals often sight-reading the scores from his perch on three bound

volumes of Punch, to reach the keyboard.

His obvious musical talents led to Arnold attending the Hampstead Conservatoire

(whose principal was Cecil Sharp) and later the Royal Academy of Music where he

studied with Matthay and Corder. He stayed there for five years and averred that he

had never been happier.

Bax was multi-talented and could easily have had a career as a writer or poet had not

music called him harder. With his private means he was able to pursue his composing

and for inspiration to trave

Arnold Bax and Ireland

Bax’s other persona was, surprisingly, as a would-be Irish Nationalist poet, which gave

this otherwise very English composer an extraordinary double life away from the British

Establishment classes.

He first visited Ireland as a 19 year old and, in his words, this ‘stirred the Celt within’

and he felt he’d found his spiritual home.

Shortly after his marriage to Elsa in 1911, the couple lived near Dublin for nearly three

years and, for the rest of his life he returned to Ireland regularly. Each time, he said, he

‘sloughed off the Englishman as a snake its skin in the spring.’

He learnt Irish, discovered Celtic mythology and began writing poetry and short stories

under the pseudonym, first as Dermod McDermott, then settling for Dermot O’Byrne.

His first published poetry was the 1910 collection ‘Seafoam and Firelight’.

He mixed in Irish literary circles and few there knew he was also a composer. Who

could have guessed then that he would later be appointed Master of the King’s Music?

Soon he became involved in the political struggles for Irish independence, and although

he was in England at the time of the Easter Rising, the event and its aftermath had a

dramatic effect on both him and his writing, resulting in his poetry collection, ‘A Dublin

Ballad 1916.’

O’Byrne – alias Bax – said the work was written “with painful intensity of emotion

just after the rebellion” – and it was suppressed by the British censor and never

published officially, although it circulated widely in private.

He once commented, “Willy Yeats told me in a Dublin drawing room that ‘A Dublin

Ballad 1916’ was a masterpiece. And that has pleased me more than any praise my

music has received.”

As his title poem is rather long, here is just the opening and final verse.

A Dublin Ballad: 1916 by Dermot O’Byrne (alias Arnold Bax)

O write it up above your hearth

And troll it out to sun and moon,

To all true Irishmen on earth

Arrest and death come late or soon.


And when the devil made us wise

Each in his own peculiar hell,

With desert hearts and drunken eyes

We’re free to sentimentalize

By corners where the martyrs fell.

‘Dermot O’Byrne’ was just one of several secret aspects to Bax’s life; another was his

40 year love affair with the pianist Harriet Cohen, who he described as “this daughter of

wild spring.”

Their relationship provided a vast correspondence of love letters, with over 3000 of

them now held at the British Library.

Bax of course was already married and living in Beaconsfield, but he would cycle from

there over to Amersham for secret liasons with Harriet at the Crown Inn.

One such encounter, on a very rainy day, began with them running downhill from

Amersham station hand in hand, then sheltering from the downpour in nearby woods.

This experience provided the inspiration for his composition ‘November Woods’

together with an accompanying poem:

November Woods

Like frightened children, silent, hand in hand,

Down the wet hill we stepped towards the flare;

Storm, a mad painter’s brush, swept sky and land

With burning signs of beauty and despair;

And once rain scourged through shrivelling wood and brake,

And in our hearts tears stung, and the old ache

Was more than any God would have us bear.

Then in the drowsy town the inn of dreams

Shut out awhile October’s sky of dread;

Drugged in the wood-reek, under the black beams,

Nestled against my arm her little head

And her child’s-mouth like some half-opened flower

Made April still for one sad sleepy hour;

And we said naught; for no word could be said.

A clock chimed, and the enchanted veils were stripped,

And we went out to take the London train

And storm and moonlight fell on us and whipped

The warm false comfort out of us again.

We knew under the chill wind-shaken glare

Between our clinging breasts Love huddled there

With gaze awry and breath caught up for pain.




Clifford Bax, Arnold’s younger brother, was a prolific English author and playwright. He

first studied art at the Slade and the Heatherly Art School, but gave up painting to work

on writing. Like Yeats, Clifford grew interested in mysticism and the esoteric world of

Theosophy, and his circle of friends included Arthur Ransome, Gustav Holst and the

occultist Aleister Crowley, with whom he regularly played chess.

Crowley was thought by some to be a Satanist and “the wickedest man in the world”.

Clifford edited a theosophical magazine, Orpheus, and also introduced Holst to

astrology. The idea for the composer’s Planets Suite was suggested to him by Clifford.

He also wrote the words the hymn “Turn back O man, forswear thy foolish ways” during

World War 1, at the request of Holst, who wanted a text for the motet he composed on

the tune Old 124th (the melody taken from the Geneva Psalter 1551).

Clifford was also a journalist and critic, and even had a night-time job working in

Whitehall as a news censor for the Press Bureau, whilst during the day, working on his

original writings. He also edited poetry collections.

Here is just a ‘small’ extract from an exceedingly long Introduction to Vintage Verse

(1945), an anthology of poetry in English, compiled with a substantial commentary, by

Clifford Bax.

“We have to admit on the evidence of publishers that poetry is not a popular

excitement. I wish that large crowds would surge against the barriers when it is

known that the Poet Laureate is due to arrive at King’s Cross, or Manchester, or

Glasgow, as I have seen them surge in hope of cheering a prizefighter; but the

world is not so fashioned, and we do well to make up our minds that poetry is an

aristocratic delight or, in a famous phrase, caviar to the general.

By aristocratic I mean, of course, that only the best minds put poetry among their

‘front-rank’ pleasures, though very little experience will assure us that these best

minds may be found in any except the darkest stratum of society.

There was that ’bus-conductor’ in 1900 whose favourite reading was Dryden’s


and the poets themselves come up from almost every social condition:

Shelley and Byron, aristocrats; Bums, a ploughman; Keats, the son of a liverystable


It is not difficult to see why poetry should appeal only to the few. It has no newsvalue.

To appreciate it a man must relish the power or the grace or the grandeur of

words; poetry is kept alive only by a judicious minority in each generation, a small

but inextinguishable aristocracy.

It is an art revered and loved by most Actors, Actresses, Composers, Painters,

Priests and Statesmen; but, so far as can be known, it has never delighted a

Politician, a Newspaper Proprietor, a Surgeon or a Financier.

After all, a love of poetry is of no help whatever to those who mean to get on in life,

and many a sound man must have sympathised with Mr. Justice Eve when he

pilloried himself in perpetuity by asking, ‘What is the use of music?’

But the winds of the world are continually veering, and there may come a day,

however distant, when the arts will again go proudly.”

However, although Clifford’s prose could be somewhat convoluted, he could on

occasion be more concise. Some of his short poems are beautifully crafted, as in this


Youth by Cifford Bax

Within a primrose wood I lay content

Upon a certain blythe blue day of spring

And ever near my lover came and went

And gathering violets ever did she sing.

So fair she was I laughed for love, and cried

“Still can I see how yesterday you stood

Your whole fair frame rejoicing in its pride

And lovelier than the whole spring lovely wood.”

And then she paused, and coming where I sat

Smiled and with one dear hand upon my head

“O Love, my love, May you remember that

When I am no more beautiful” she cried.

Another Bax family member who wrote poetry, was Arnold and Clifford’s cousin

Freda, who was Arnold’s closest female ‘confidante’ – make of that what you will! –

and she’d lived with the family in Hampstead at Ivy Bank at one time. Arnold wrote her

many letters from Ireland. Here is one of Freda’s poems.

I have heard a Music by Freda Bax

I have heard a music,

strange and wild and tender,

Through the mystic splendour of the twilight stealing

Like the spell entrancing of a magic potion,

Slowly it enwound me, twirling, twining, dancing,

In a mazy motion whirling all around me

Through the deep’ning twilight

Aery voices calling

And dim shadows falling

Clustered all around me.

That wild music burning,

With an infinite yearning,

All the heart of me

And I wandered lonely,

Lonely, ah so lonely

Down the pathway weeping

While the world lay sleeping

Dreaming at my feet.

Dermot O’Byrne Poems from Seafoam and Firelight


Sometimes among these stony silent places,

When long gleams tremble through the quietude

Upon the sea-stained rags and wind-worn faces

Of this poor folk, through some ancestral mood

I feel the shades of ancient splendours brood.

Then have I heard the wind with slender fingers

Harping strange things among the tossing reeds,

A lordlier music than the old blind singers

Made of Cuchulainn and his mighty deeds,

And heroes this faint time no longer heeds.

A wilder glory floods the creeping water

Than fell from torque or gorgelet of old kings

And all the beauty of the harper’s daughter

Glows in the grey eyes of some girl that sings —

Yet Deirdre has been dust two thousand Springs.

And when the gentle shepherd Night comes bringing

The golden stars to wander in the sky,

I hear the heart of mother Dana singing

Among the tumbled rocks, and the far cry

Of hidden wondrous folk that never die.


The dark whin-bushes bend with faery dew,

And in the reeds the old grey heron flies

And quarrels with the wind that laughing blew

Her brittle world to shreds. Far unknown cries

And shrill horn-music piercing the thin rain

Shed a vague tumult over heart and brain.

There is a brooding terror on this place,

And yet some loveliness is hidden here

That draws my heart more than your pale proud


Bent low above the peats. This cloudy fear

Is a blown veil half-covering the eyes

Of some dread beauty that sleeps but never dies.

I must go hence if ever I’d be freed

From old earth-magic and the perilous word

In murmur of May-winds through rush and reed,

In cool lake-lips, and scream of crazy bird,

And from strange lights that hovering on the wind

Shrivel Love’s heart and burn his eyelids blind

In 1943 Arnold’s musical pen fell silent under the pressures of war, but he turned to

writing and produced an autobiography entitled “Farewell, my Youth.” It was so

popular that it was reprinted twice in the first year of publication.

In it he wrote about many of his musical peers and one of these was E.J. Moeran, a

man who, when they first met in 1919, was already making a mark in the musical


E.J. Moeran, known as ‘Jack’ was the son of an Anglo-Irish clergyman. He was born

in Middlesex but because of his father’s profession spent much of his youth in

Norfolk, at the parishes of Bacton and Salhouse. After prep. school in Cromer he

went to Uppingham School and from there to the Royal College of Music to study

with C.V. Stanford..

Moeran’s studies were soon interrupted by the outbreak of war and in 1914 he

enlisted as a motor cycle dispatch rider in the Norfolk regiment. It was on his leaves

in Norfolk that he began to collect folk songs. He later became a leading light of the

FOLK Song Society. In 1917 Jack was badly injured and it was during his

recuperation that he met Bax, who described him as “as charming and good looking

a young officer as one could wish to meet.”

Seeing out the war with the Royal Irish Constabulary in County Roscommon,

Moeran rediscovered his Irish roots. When he was discharged from the army, he

returned briefly to the RCM and later studied privately with John Ireland, a diligent

and supportive teacher.

Moeran had an allowance from his mother that gave him free rein for his musical

endeavours and he was able to promote a series of concerts a the Wigmore Hall.

These included Bax’s Piano Quintet , featuringthe pianist Harriet Cohen, who also

gave first performances of some of Moeran’s work.

However there was a spell of Moeran’s life when things did not go so smoothly . He

had met the composer Philip Heseltine, otherwise known as. Peter Warlock in the

early 1920’s . Warlock greatly admired Moeran’s work and wrote; “There is no British

composer from whom we may more confidently expect work of sound and enduring

quality than from Jack Moeran; there is certainly no one of his years who has as yet

achieved so much”.[5]

From 1925 Jack shared a cottage in Eynsford with Warlock and the artist Hal

Collins. Warlock was given to heavy drinking and sadly Jack joined him, and the

household became notorious for its wild, bibulous parties. Warlock seemed

unaffected by his vice but Moeran perhaps because of his war wound succumbed to

alcoholism. Under the influence of Warlock’s stronger personality his compositions

dried up. It was only after Warlock’s suicide that Moeran returned to his parents’

home in Norfolk and gradually began to rebuild his career producing much of his

best work in the 1930s.

Moeran spent much of his later life in the village of Kenmare, County Kerry and the

folk of that village adored him. One resident said: “if ever there was a move to elect

a mayor of this town, Jack Moeran would be everybody’s first choice.”

There are many similarities between Bax and Moeran. Both drew inspiration from

Folk song. In Moeran’s case he collected many tunes in East Anglia but like Bax

was later drawn to Ireland and Irish folk music. In musical style both had a gift for

melodic invention and the romantic use of chromaticism, They shared many of the

same friendships and influences – not least Vaughan Williams and Holst, both of

whom, incidentally, were music teachers at this very school.

Moeran and Bax had both made Ireland their adopted motherland and so it seems

fitting that both died and were laid to rest there.

Robin Milford, 1903- 1959

Consider three sisters, granddaughters of Sir John Stainer, being home schooled by a governess named Kirsty Newsom, who “scraped” a viola,  in around 1920. They all joined Robin Milford’s chamber orchestra in the Ashtead / Epsom area. Robin married Kirsty, and two of the sisters married Robin’s sporty brother David and Kirsty’s fishing brother Alec, ably acting out the opening line of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. 
Why is the word orchestra associated with the word pit? Love nest might be more appropriate. Crazy world!
Talking of pits, Robin had severe emotional challenges. He remained sure he was condemned to go to hell: efforts by his cousin Anne Ridler to reassure him got nowhere. He suffered greatly from headaches and depression. 
His father Humphrey was printer to the Oxford University Press, and started a music department. Robin’s music was published, but there was always the question as to whether this was really warranted or due to paternal influence. Earning a living as a composer was out of the question, and the few part time teaching jobs did not sparkle. 
There was some success: most of his pieces were performed once, and some twice. Vaughan Williams thought highly of him. Things seemed promising for a while.
Joining the army at the outbreak of World War two was a disaster. He lasted just a week before he had a breakdown, requiring weeks in hospital. He later spent time in Barrow psychiatric hospital, and found the ECG therapy of only limited help. Then one terrible day, little Barnaby aged five, an only son,  went on his bike, dressed in a red coat for visibility, to fetch some music for his father, and was killed by a van.
Kirsty was dreadfully upset. To begin with, Robin appeared to get over it, saying that at least Barnaby would now be spared from having to live in this grim world, but a year later he started making suicide attempts which ended with him taking a bottle of tablets in the closing days of 1959. 
Robin wrote diatonic music in an age when the musical world was pursuing the avant-garde. The critics slated his work mercilessly, but despite this, and to my intense admiration, Robin never gave up. He has left us around a hundred and eighty works, and who cares now what the critics thought then? Indeed, whatever happened to the avant garde? 
Robin is a model of persistence in the face of extreme difficulties. He never gave up. His story has encouraged me to compose again. I gave up in my twenties, because nobody showed the slightest interest in what I wrote, but when I discovered Robin’s story, I resumed, aged sixty. The world still does not care about my efforts, but that won’t put me off. Bury me shrouded in furiously scribbled manuscript! (This is also environmentally friendly – it aids decomposing).
Find out more about Robin, how we rescued his music from the deepest vaults of the Bodleian Library in Oxford and got it performed and recorded by professional musicians and orchestras,  at
Thank you. David Pennant


Sunday October 13th. 

The Vaughan Williams Auditorium

James Allen’s Girls’ School


About the Composers 

 2.15 p.m.

The Bax Family.                                    Introduced by Barbara Alden and Pat Williams

E.J. Moeran                                             A thumbnail sketch – Pat Williams

Robin Milford                                         Introduced by David Pennant

AESS is very grateful to David Pennant, Stephen Varcoe and The Robin Milford Trust for their part in today’s event.

Songs and poems by Arnold Bax 


The White Peace                              Sarah Leonard                      Pat Williams

A Christmas Carol                                        ”                                              “

In Carna                                             Barbara Alden                      Poem

Three Irish Songs

Cradle Song                                       Pat Williams                         Michael Pilkington

By a Faery Lough                              Barbara Alden                      Poem

Rann of  Exile                                   Sue Anderson                       Pat Williams

To Eire                                                Barbara Alden                      Poem

Rann of  Wandering                   Iain Sneddon                              Diana Bickley

The Shieling Song                            Laura Clark                            Diana Bickley

To Eire                                                Sue Anderson                       Pat Williams

In the Morning                                 Brian Parsons                       David Pollard

Far in a Western Brookland                      ”                                              “

When I was One-and Twenty                    ”                                              “


Songs by Robin Milford

Port after Stormy Seas                     Quartet

This Endris Night.                            Laura Clark                            Diana Bickley

Love on My Heart                                         ”                                              “

The Holy Tide                                   Joss Cooper                           Andrew Mildinhall

The Colour                                                     ”                                              “

Epitaph                                                          ”                                              “

So Sweet Love Seemed                   Pat Williams                         Michael Pilkington

What Pleasures                               Iain Sneddon                         Diana Bickley

The Moor                                           Clive McCombie                    Pat Williams

Old Age                                                          ”                                              “

If it’s Ever Spring Again                               ”                                              “

Songs by E. J.  Moeran

Lonely Waters                                  Joss Cooper &                       Andrew Mildinhall

                                                            Clive McCombie

Evening                                              Sarah Leonard                      Pat Williams 

The Poplars                                                   ”                                              “

Oh Fair Enough are Sky & Plain     Iain Sneddon                           Diana Bickley

Far in a western Brookland              Clive McCombie                    Pat Williams

When June is Come              Sue Anderson                       Pat Williams

When Daisies Pied                                     ”                                              “

Diaphenia                                         Brian Parsons                       David Pollard

Good Wine                                        Quartet

Sally Burgess Masterclass Review

Masterclass given by Sally Burgess

St Marylebone Parish Church On Thursday June 27th, the day after the finals of the Patricia Routledge National Singing competition, four of the entrants were treated to a master class with international mezzo soprano and AESS member, Sally Burgess.  The four singers were Renee Fajardo, who sang the unaccompanied My Love is Mine by Jonathan Dove, Haley Swanton, who sang Dreamland by Vaughan Williams, accompanied by Rachel Fright, Laurence Williams, who sang The Crucifixion by Samuel Barber, also accompanied by Rachel Fright, and Siȃn Dicker, who sang Armida’s Garden by Parry, accompanied by Jonathan Jarvis. Miss Burgess encouraged all of them to use their imaginations more, and really to engage with and understand the texts of the songs. She asked them to speak their texts in many different ways to find the true inflections and meaning of the words in order to really paint shapes with their voices.  There was a small audience of enthusiastic supporters. The AESS is very grateful to Sally Burgess for giving so much of her time to listen to the prelims and the finals of the competition, in order to get to know the singers better. Sarah Leonard – Chairman of the AESS  

Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2019 Final Result

The Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition 2019
Final Result
The final of this year’s Senior Prize took place at St Marylebone Parish Church and the AESS is
grateful to the Rector and his staff for their help and support. Thanks too to the Director of Music,
Gavin Roberts who is an AESS committee member. 
A record number of people attended the final and they greatly enjoyed the five singers and their
pianists who performed twenty minute themed programmes of English art songs, poetry and prose of their own devising.
Former winner, Barbara O Neill, explained how the judges arrived at their decision and what they
were looking for, particularly an ability to inhabit the material at hand and convey the full emotional gamut to the audience.
Dame Patricia commended everyone for the hard work of planning and rehearsing the
programmes. She spoke of the need to be able to work spontaneously with a new and sometimes
difficult acoustic.
Chariman, Sarah Leonard, announced the winners:
First Prize of £2,000                            Milly Forrest
Joint Second Prize of £1,000 each    Siân Dicker & Laurence Williams
Pianist’s Prize of £1,000                     Cameron Richardson-Eames
Congratulations to them and thanks to everyone who entered the competition for helping the AESS in its core aim which is ‘to encourage the communication of English words, in singing and speech, with clarity, understanding and imagination’.
The programme: 1 & 2
Barbara O Neill addresses the performers and audience
The performers, judges and Dame Patricia
With Dame Patricia from left: Rachel Fright, Hayley Swanton, Peter Edge, Milly Forrest, Cameron Richardson-Eames, George Ireland, Siân Dicker, Laurence Williams, Jonathan Jarvis

Our thanks to the judges of both rounds:

Jane Roberson, Patricia Williams, Sarah Leonard

Sally Burgess, Julia Dewhurst, Barbara O Neill, Stephen Gutman, Brian Parsons

Thanks to Lynda Morgan for her practical help

The Co-ordinator is Stephen Miles

AESS Speech Prize Results 2019

On Saturday April 27ththe finals of the Timothy West & Prunella Scales Prize for Actors took place at
the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. 

There were eleven finalists, and the judges, led by Timothy West all agreed that it has been a
competition of the highest standards. 

The first prize of £1000 was awarded to Thomas Josling, 21, from The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. 

The second prize of £600 was awarded to Thara Schon, 23, from Guildford School of Acting 

The third prize of £400 was awarded to Connor Jones, 23, from The Royal Academy of Music MT post graduate course. 

The judges were Jonathan Courage, Martin Parr and Timothy West.

The judges for the preliminary round were Jonathan Courage and Gay Soper.  

The AESS is very grateful to Timothy West & Prunella Scales, and John and Julia Dewhurst for
sponsoring the competition. 

Special thanks go to the competition administrator, Stephen Varcoe, for all his hard work to make
this the most successful actors prize so far. 

Thomas Josling, Timothy West, Thara Schon and Connor Jones.

Timothy West, Martin Parr, Thomas Josling, Thara Schon, Connor Jones and Jonathan CourageO

All the finalists and the judges