The composer Frederick Delius lived at Solano Grove on the St. Johns
River near Jacksonville, Florida from 1884 to 1885, and made a return visit
in 1897. Many of his beautiful musical works were inspired
by his Florida experience. The Delius Festival is the
annual celebration of the composer and his music.
Following is the program for the Festival and a report on the 1999 Festival by Jeff Gower.
1999 Festival Schedule:
March 4 (Thursday)
At Jacksonville University:
10:30 AM Screening of the documentary film "DISCOVERING DELIUS"
This 1993 film follows Delius' life, but concentrates primarily on the music, exploring
its origins and probing its meanings. Featured in the film are many of the UK's most
12:30 PM Composers' luncheon (reservations required: 904-389-0587)
2:00 PM Delius House Tour and Restoration Plans
3:00 PM Delius Composition Award Concert (Terry Concert Hall)
March 5 (Friday):
At Friday Musicale Auditorium, 645 Oak Street:
11:00 AM Friday Musicale: THE BRIDGE QUARTET
The World Premiere of the 2 surviving movements of the 1888 string quartet by Delius, along with Delius' 1916 Quartet and Schubert's Quartet in Eb D.87
March 6 (Saturday):
11:30 AM Florida Yacht Club: The Fenby Lecture
5210 Yacht Club Road (reservations required: 904-389-0587)
Lecturer: Mr. Lyndon Jenkins, Chairman of the Delius Society, London.
His topic will be: DELIUS - AN END OF CENTURY PERSPECTIVE
2:00 PM Excursion to Solano Grove, Home of Delius (1884-1885)
7:30 PM Terry Concert Hall at
Ms. TASMIN LITTLE, internationally reknowned violinist, in recital
(with Mr. John Lenehan, accompanist)
Brahms - Scherzo in C Minor
Delius - Sonata No. 2
Bach - Sonata No. 1 in G minor for violin solo
Bartok - Roumanian Dances
Ravel - Piece en forme d'Habanera
Delius - Sonata in B major, op. Post.
article about Tasmin Little's appearance at the 1999 Delius Festival
The 1999 Festival was dedicated to Sara Powell, a devoted and tireless Delius Association member for three decades, who served as President from 1976-8 (including the 1978 Festival during which Eric Fenby received an honorary degree from Jacksonville University).
This year's Festival was spearheaded by Jesse Wright Jr..
Glorious weather - perhaps a bit cool for Floridians, however - sunny and 60s. We met in the Gooding Auditorium on JU campus at 10:30am for a brief welcoming announcement (especially to the 20+ Delians from England!), followed by a screening of the superb 1992 documentary film Discovering Delius. This film just gets better and better with each viewing - the chosen music, commentators and commentary, scenery....all made for a perfect start to a perfect Festival.
After the film, Lyndon Jenkins, Chairman of the Delius Society in England, announced the recent performance of Delius' never-before-performed A Poem of Life and Love by conductor Vernon Handley and the BBC Concert Orchestra (to be aired on BBC Radio on March 9). This is the work that Delius first asked Fenby to review and comment on, and Fenby boldly stated that he thought it was not up-to-par, to which Delius replied that Eric should extract the best parts so that they may be reworked into what was to become A Song of Summer. Anyway, the surprise was that Lyndon had brought a tape of that performance so that we, the Delians attending the 39th Delius Festival in Jacksonville, Florida, were to be the very first gathered audience for this music....EVER! That was quite a thrill, indeed. Well, the quality of the audio equipment in Gooding Auditorium did not do justice to the music, and it was therefore hard to give the piece a good listen. But from that one listen, I must say that I personally could understand Eric's lack of enthusiasm for the piece - it had some fine moments (those which were extracted for A Song of Summer), but as a whole it didn't impress me (nor did it impress the other attendees with whom I had discussed the work) - but I really should wait until the recording is out to give it a fair chance.
Afterwards, we went over to Terry Concert Hall at 12:30 for the annual Composers' Luncheon, and then we toured the Delius house and the Swisher Library's display of the original manuscript scores to Koanga and A Song of Summer. At this display, there was quite a nice group of English and American attendees gathered, with some lively and enjoyable discussion regarding the scores (including Lyndon's hilarious impersonation of Beecham). The Koanga score was open to the lilting dance also known as La Calinda, and the musicians amongst us had fun reading the notes and singing aloud what we read - how thrilling it was to actually be singing along with Delius' own handwritten notes! There was also on display a copy of the Delius bust originally created by Jelka - there are only a few of these copies in the world.
The annual Delius Composition Award Concert took place at 3:00. Delius was a supporter of contemporary composers, and each year, in honor of Delius' interest in young composers, the Association awards a Delius Memorial Scholarship of $1000, and awards category-specific prizes and grand-prizes. A concert is held each year to present these works. This always proves to be an interesting and entertaining concert, with wide-ranging stylistic musical offerings. This year, I particularly liked Alex Shapiro's Trio for Clarinet and Piano (and Violin), and also the Sonata for Flute and Piano by Jeff Manookian. There was a pleasant but simple jazz "Lullaby" for baritone sax and piano by Dwight Thomas and an interesting String Quartet by Grant Sutton. Also a Brass Quintet by high school composer Josh Deutsch and a solo piano work "Opposed Directions" by Hyekyung Lee. But the Grand Prize winner went to Alla Borzova, whose humorous and multi-stylistic "Mother Said (7 Poems by Hal Sirowitz)" for voice and chamber ensemble had the audience laughing and thoroughly entertained throughout the 7 short movements. It wasn't my own personal pick (I'd have chosen either the aforementioned Trio or the the Flute sonata), but it was very unique.
The Friday Musicale concert this year was a special one, in that The Bridge String Quartet from England came over to perform two Delius string quartets, including the world premiere of the 1888 String Quartet (only two of the original four movements have survived). This was a GREAT performance of a great piece - I am very sad that the remaining two movements were lost, because I truly enjoyed this music. I hope that it will be recorded one day soon. How great it was to hear TWO Delius premieres in two days! The 1916 String Quartet was also performed, magically and gorgeously by the Bridge Quartet. I was in utter amazement and awe before this glorious music, performed so beautifully. The Bridge Quartet captured the feel of this music superbly. They opened the concert with an early Schubert quartet (D. 87 in Eb).
The annual Fenby Lecture was given by Lyndon Jenkins at the Florida Yacht Club, overlooking the St. Johns River and the Jacksonvill skyline. Another gorgeous day. Lyndon's lecture was titled Delius - An End of Century Perspective and traced the three "periods" of Delius' output, with a very optimistic view of his stature now as composer and how his music has fared relatively very well in recordings and performances (compared to many other composers of his time). He of course credits much of this to the promotional efforts of Beecham and others, including the recent efforts by such performers as Tasmin Little, who was present at the lecture/luncheon. It was nice to hear such an optimistic and upbeat viewpoint when so often we Delians bemoan the relative "neglect" of our favorite composer. It is good to be reminded of all the fine recordings we DO have, etc.. The food was good, the conversation was good, and the whole atmosphere was once again one of shared enthusiasm and purpose. This is always a special part of the Festival, in my opinion.
Afterwards, many made the excursion to Solano Grove - a perfect day for doing so (sunny, dry, 70s, etc.).
The Festival was concluded by one of the finest musical experiences I'd had in many years - the Tasmin Little / John Lenehan recital. I just can't adequately express my deep admiration and appreciation for Tasmin's performance. She opened the show in a very confident performance of Brahms' rhapsodic Scherzo in Cm, followed by a gorgeous performance of Delius' 2nd Violin Sonata. Tasmin spoke about each work prior to its performance, with her sunny temperament and modesty - the audience loved her. For a break from the rhapsodic and chromatic elusiveness of the preceding works, she performed a killer-workout Bach solo sonata (the famous Sonata No. 1 in Gm, the fugue of which is a known finger-killer, since I have struggled with a classical guitar transcription of it many times also!) and brought the house down with her virtuosity. After the intermission, she performed two shorter works, Bartok's folk-derived "Roumanian Dances" and Ravel's famous "Piece en forme d'Habanera" (which I had performed many times my flutist partner in Massachusetts), both of which had the audience enthralled with their exotic charm. Then came the highlight of the evening (for me, anyway): the 1892 Delius Sonata in B (op. posth.) - this early sonata is one of those works that Delius never tried to get performed in his lifetime - but it is marvelous in every way. I was near tears when the final notes were played - Tasmin exudes the Delian magic and mystique in her playing. To hear this music, music that has moved me so deeply on CDs played on my modest stereo system at home, performed live and up-close in an intimate setting such as the Terry Concert Hall, and by a truly Delian performer....well, let me just say that Tasmin received an immediate standing ovation - the applause seemed to go on forever. The audience was spellbound. Even the ones who didn't know Delius' music (judging from what I'd heard during pre-recital conversations around me) seemed genuinely amazed at the unique beauty of this music and its performer. Tasmin performed TWO encores: a short-but-lovely piece by another of my favorite composers, Manuel Ponce; and a short piece by Cyril Scott (per her father's request - he was in the audience, directly behind me - it was fun to hear his comments between pieces). After the concert, I met Tasmin and told her that I'd enjoyed her recordings for years, but that my modest stereo simply did not do them justice! Haha. I wanted so much to just talk with her and to ask her so many questions (e.g., if she had plans to record Delius' Suite and Legende, and so many other musical things - we obviously share many musical enthusiasms, as evidenced by her recordings and her chosen works for this recital), but she was literally being pulled here and there by admirers and friends, so I just told her how much I appreciated her coming to the Festival and her devotion to the music of Delius.
So, the night, and the 39th Annual Delius Festival, ended with a magical concert and a fine reception for Tasmin hosted by my friends Jeff Driggers and Bill Early. Everyone was there, and everyone was glowing from the success of one of the finest Delius Festivals ever (definitely my favorite so far). I thanked many people for their hard work, and as I left, I thanked J Wright for his hard work. He told me that he was working on getting some performances of the kind of Afro-American part-singing that Delius heard in the 1880s for the next Festival. He solicited my help for the upcoming year and I gladly offered it!! Haha, that just goes to show you how devoted these Delians in Florida are: this year's Festival is not even over yet and there are plans already afoot for the next one!
I can't wait.
March 8, 1999
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