Appendix 1 John Ireland and friends
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.
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!