An introduction to music research
An introduction to music research

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

An introduction to music research

Appendix 1 John Ireland and friends

Fiona Richards

Knowledge of the life and music of John Ireland (1879–1962), like any biographical work, can be greatly enhanced by images that reveal places and people that were important to the composer. Our understanding of the time when he was producing his most personal music, roughly speaking 1918–30, is hampered by the fact that so few biographical sources have survived. There are many reasons for this, among them the destruction of Ireland’s property both during the Second World War and after his death. It was therefore very exciting for me to discover two hitherto unused and unknown resources relating to people who played a significant part in Ireland’s life and works. Both of these were young people, one a boy from Chelsea (Arthur Miller), the other a young woman pianist (Helen Perkin). Until 2000 there were no pictures in print of either of these figures, yet Ireland dedicated his Piano Concerto to Perkin, who premiered the work at the Proms in 1930, and wrote several piano, vocal and chamber pieces for Miller. Until only recently they remained enigmatic, known only through reviews and through Ireland’s music itself.

The first source was in the care of Perkin’s youngest son in Sydney, and consisted of a number of photographs, as well as many programmes, reviews and suchlike. Seeing Helen Perkin (Figure 1) perhaps helps to reveal why it was that Ireland should choose such an inexperienced performer to play the solo role in one of his biggest works.

Figure 1 Portrait of Helen Perkin, c.1930.

The second source was if anything even more fascinating. Owned by the John Ireland Trust, a little bundle of undeveloped negatives was accompanied by a list detailing their contents, even dating them very precisely. These included several photographs of Arthur Miller (see Figure 2), but also supplied invaluable missing biographical material, even down to the fact that we now know exactly where Ireland was on 22 August 1922!

Figure 2 Arthur Miller, photographed by John Ireland, Norfolk, 1922. Photo courtesy of the John Ireland Charitable Trust.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus