John Ireland

One of the leading English composers of his generation, John Ireland (1879-1962) wrote music that was inspired by Debussy, Elgar, Ravel and the British landscape.

  • John Ireland was born near Altrincham, Manchester. His father was already 70 when John was born.
  • John studied piano, organ and composition under Stanford at the Royal College of Music.
  • He went on to teach at the RCM. His pupils included Britten.
  • Using influences from Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, Ireland developed his own English Impressionism, distinctive from the then prevailing folk-song style.
  • The premiere of his Violin Sonata No.2 drew crowds to the Wigmore Hall and attracted a number of publishers, including one who arrived on Ireland's doorstep the following morning.
  • The composer derived great inspiration from the Thames and the Sussex Downs, as well as from reading pagan mysticism.
  • He often visited the Channel Islands and composed The Island Spell while staying on Jersey. He was evacuated just before the German invasion during World War II.
  • Ireland's last major work was the film score for Ealing Studios' The Overlanders. A suite from it was made by Charles Mackerras.
  • On 10 September 1949, his 70th birthday was celebrated at a special Prom concert.
  • He retired in 1953, settling in rural Sussex, where he lived in a converted windmill. He died in 1962 aged 82.
  • He was described as 'a self-critical, introspective man, haunted by memories of a sad childhood.'

Did you know?...
At the age of 47, Ireland briefly married a 17-year-old pupil. He took a similar interest in another young student to whom he dedicated his Piano Concerto in E flat and Legend for piano and orchestra. She gave the premieres but declined his advances.

Sea Fever by John Ireland