The Florida Times-Union

March 3, 2004

Musician's inspiration revisited

Staff writer


Somehow it's almost always poignant, never cliche.

Composer Frederick Delius has said it was the time of day he was moved enough by the singing of African-Americans working near his North Florida orange groves to write a movement of his Florida Suite called "Sunset."

That moment will be remembered during a boat trip Thursday afternoon as part of the 44th annual Delius Festival to commemorate the English composer who lived in Jacksonville in the 1880s.

Participants will travel from downtown south on the St. Johns River toward Solano Grove in St. Johns County where the composer lived, and take in the sunset (weather permitting) from a similar perspective.

"Delius said he was sitting on the porch watching the sun set over the St. Johns and listing to workers singing when he had this epiphany that set him off on a course to compose impressionistic music expressing the themes he heard," said Jay Wright, a professor at Jacksonville University.

The Delius Festival is set for Thursday though Saturday. It's being presented by the Delius Association of Florida, Jacksonville University, Friday Musicale and the Delius Trust of London, in cooperation with The Southern Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Jacksonville Historical Society and St. John's Cathedral.

This year's festival will concentrate on the music Delius composed as a result of his stay in Jacksonville during the 1880s.

The festival's closing concert will also present the world premier of two recently discovered songs by Delius. They are the composer's adaptation of the African-American songs he heard on the docks and river boats and in the orange groves.

During this time, young Delius was commissioned by his father, an English industrialist, to manage an orange grove on the St. Johns River about 35 miles south of Jacksonville in hopes that he would forget about his aspirations to become a composer.

"The irony is just the opposite happened," Wright said. "His father had thought it might 'make a man of him' and help him stop thinking about music. Instead, it ended up inspiring him, motivating him to pursue his love of composing."

While in North Florida, Delius became enthralled not only by the area's natural beauty but also by the sounds of music coming from workers singing in the distance. The experience resulted in Delius' first and most widely known major work, Florida-Tropical Scenes for Orchestra , commonly called the Florida Suite.

A series of public events to be held throughout Jacksonville will commemorate Delius' life and times in Jacksonville and the African-American influence on his historic compositions. For more information and the detailed schedule of events, call 256-7267.

Besides the Thursday boat trip, other festival events include:

A free concert by the Solano Singers at 11 a.m. Friday at Friday Musicale, 645 Oak St.

A concert by young Florida composers at Friday Musicale at 1 p.m. Friday.

A free cocktail reception at 4 p.m. Friday at the Delius House at Jacksonville University. The house was moved in 1961 from Solano Grove and it is now near the river under sweeping live oaks on the JU campus.

A free showing of the film Discovering Delius at 8 p.m. Friday at JU's Phillips Fine Arts Building.

Festival events continue all day Saturday at the Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum, 829 N. Davis St. Events include lectures, discussions, concerts and other performances.

A bus trip to Solano Grove, the site of Delius orange grove in St. Johns County, from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday.

The festival's main concert is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts' Jacoby Hall, 300 Water St.

It features English conductor Davis Lloyd-Jones and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. The performance includes the Edward Waters University Concert Choir presenting the world premier of two recently discovered songs by Delius that reflect the African-American music he heard in Jacksonville.

Cost per person is $25 for general admission. Delius Association member and cooperating institutions cost is $18 per person. Tickets may be purchased through the Jacksonville Symphony offices in advance or on the day of the event from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. For ticket information, call 354-5547., (904) 359-4539

Back to the 2004 Delius Festival page