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Dedications are what we need!!

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

In this blog post I will be considering the relationship Elaine had with two incredible professionals, why she dedicated music to them, and how these two relationships are related.

Firstly, John Potter. John is a singer and author. His books on singing are published by Cambridge and Yale University Press, and he is currently writing a history of song for Yale. He records for ECM with The Dowland Project and Alternative History, and is Reader Emeritus in Music at the University of York UK. His projects are still very much alive, and this Summer alone his musical exploits will take him to Sweden, Finland, and Spain. He has a new book coming out in July, and is also very involved with his family, (his granddaughters are also musical). You can find out more at his website https://www.john-potter.co.uk.


I recently emailed John to find out whether he remembered Elaine, and why she might have dedicated her ‘Cornford Cycle’ to him. His response is below.


“I have very fond memories of Elaine, and the Cornford Songs have always been among my favourite 20th century English songs. I first met her when she was a staff accompanist at BBC Birmingham, and if I remember rightly she wrote the songs for one of my first broadcasts (1970/71?). I lived in Worcester at the time and also did some teaching at Malvern Girls College so our paths would cross every now and again. Sadly, as the recital sphere contracted and various opportunities opened in different necks of the musical woods I didn’t get many opportunities to perform them, but I did manage to introduce Jane Manning to the songs. Elaine and I kept in touch and she sent me scores from time to time (and we exchanged Christmas cards until her death) – and she gave my son a copy of her piano tutor. I was able to at least give her a mention in my forthcoming Song: a History in 12 Parts. She was a lovely person and a joy to work with – and a great accompanist (as you can guess from her wonderfully idiomatic piano parts.)”


Having built a lasting friendship with John, Elaine went on to form a friendship with Jane Manning, who was amongst her dearest friends. Jane Marian Manning OBE (20 September 1938 – 31 March 2021) was an English concert and opera soprano, writer on music, and visiting professor at the Royal College of Music. A specialist in contemporary classical music, she was described by one critic as "the irrepressible, incomparable, unstoppable Ms. Manning – life and soul of British contemporary music".[1]

Manning and her husband, the composer Anthony Payne were avid supporters of contemporary British music.[2] They founded the virtuoso new music group Jane's Minstrels and many of Payne's works were premiered by Manning and the ensemble.

Jane also loved Elaine’s music. In her survey New Vocal Repertory (vol 1, 1986), she wrote of the pleasure of discovering a composer with a complete mastery of voice and piano writing: “Although they are firmly based on a traditional musical style – that of English post-Romantic – the songs are not in the least derivative [but show] a wonderful assurance and freshness of approach and an exceptionally sensitive response to words.”She recorded the whole of her ‘Eight songs of Walter de la Mare’. Elaine dedicated this cycle to her friend, who can be found singing them in the listen section of this website.


I was privileged to meet both Jane and Tony, with Elaine, at a bijou restaurant on the side of our beautiful Malvern Hills: The Cottage in the Wood. It was Elaine’s favourite venues with expansive views and amazing food. The company that evening was in Jane’s case vibrant, in Tony’s calming, and in Elaine’s serenely happy as she bathed in the charming company of her beloved and loving friends.


Both the Cornford Cycle and The Eight songs of Walter de la Mare can be found in our shop.


If you would like to share any information you have on Elaine’s life and work, please do contact us here at Caradoc. We will happily add your contributions to this living history.

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