The John Ireland Charitable Trust

The John Ireland Charitable Trust was formed in 1968 to promote awareness of Ireland's works through recordings, performances and publications.

Enquiries and Applications to the Trust should be directed to:
Applications will be considered on a quarterly basis.  The deadline for the submission of applications are as follows:

1st March
1st July
1st November

Notification of forthcoming concerts and events featuring Ireland’s works should be directed to the Publicist, in the format as shown on the Concerts/Events page: The page is usually updated every few weeks so we cannot guarantee inclusion without enough notice.  Please link up with the Trust on Twitter and Facebook to share your concert information.  

Selected forthcoming concerts and events can be found on the Concerts page, and recent recordings on the New Releases page.

Latest News

The 2019 John Ireland Prize Event

Turner Sims, University of Southampton, Salisbury Road, Southampton SO17 1BJ

The Music Department of the University of Southampton hosted the annual John Ireland Prize on 15th March 2019 when six music students performed a wide variety of music by the composer -solo songs, piano music and works for solo instrument and piano . The standard was commendably high.  The winning performance, of the first movement of Ireland’s Violin Sonata no1, was given by Columba Dromgoole-Cavazzi, accompanied by a member of the teaching staff, Duncan Honeybourne. A performance of great maturity and real musical insight, as well as being of a high technical standard. 

The competitian was adjudicated by Professor Vince Emery (who kindly sponsored the Competition), Professor David Owen Norris (Southampton University) and David Wordsworth (Director of the John Ireland Trust).

John Ireland: A Downland Suite, Julius Caesar, The Overlanders

by Graham Parlett

On 14 and 15 August 2017 sessions were held in the RSNO Centre, Glasgow, at which Martin Yates – that great champion of British music – conducted première recordings of John Ireland’s complete score for the Ealing Studios film The Overlanders, together with his incidental music for a radio production of Julius Caesar, and Martin’s own arrangement for full orchestra of A Downland Suite. The latter was originally written for the 1932 National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, and in 1941 Ireland arranged the Minuet and Elegy for string orchestra, his pupil Geoffrey Bush later working on the Prelude and final Rondo in similar style. In arranging the suite for full orchestra, Martin Yates returned to the original brass version and has produced a most enjoyable score that will delight all lovers of John Ireland’s music.

The recording sessions had begun with his impressive music for the Ealing Studios production of The Overlanders, a 1946 film telling the story of real-life events that had taken place four years earlier, when there were fears that the Japanese might invade Australia. This resulted in large numbers of cattle being driven across the Northern Territory from Wyndham in the west to Queensland in the east, a distance of roughly 1600 miles. The film was shot entirely on location there, and although the composer never went to that part of the world it is remarkable how he managed so effectively to evoke its wide, open spaces and to capture the spirit of its people. In 1971, Boosey & Hawkes published a five-movement suite arranged by Charles Mackerras and Two Symphonic Studies by Geoffrey Bush, based on sections from the score but with the original orchestration sometimes altered. For example, the original bass clarinet, tenor tuba and piano parts were either omitted or assigned to other instruments. This recording reinstates the original scoring, and we now have the opportunity of hearing the music complete, including a few episodes omitted from the final soundtrack.

In 1948, the composer had been asked to make a suite from the music but declined to do so, though he later joked about producing a Sinfonia Overlandia to match Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia Antartica. It is a great pity that he never set about producing such a symphony, as parts of the score, especially in the sections entitled Night Stampede, Mountain Crossing and Water Stampede, contain some wonderfully dramatic music, which were superbly played by the RSNO. This contrasts with Ireland at his most romantic, as in the ravishing Love Theme and in a beautiful section for strings marked “Broad and noble,” with its nod to Tudor music, which links two versions of the recurring passage referred to in the manuscript as the Cheer-up Tune – one of Ireland’s catchiest numbers.
The final score recorded was the incidental music for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, written for a 1942 radio production and played here, for the first time, complete. It was left to the end of the sessions because it is scored not for full orchestra but for the unusual combination of woodwind, brass, percussion, piano and two double basses. In the manuscript Ireland adds a footnote that the three horns “must do their maximum, & do the duty of 6 players,” and so for the purposes of this recording six horns were used, together with four double basses instead of the two marked in the score. As may be expected, the score includes a number of fanfares and military marches as well as music illustrating several other scenes in the play, such as Ghost Music and Crowd Music. One of the most exciting sections is the Lupercalia Music, used for the scene in which Caesar holds a victory parade during this annual Roman festival and a soothsayer utters the famous warning “Beware the Ides of March.”

There was one section in which Ireland only sketched some music but never finished it, namely the Battle Music, which accompanies the final armed confrontation in October 42 BC between the two principal conspirators (Brutus and Cassius) and Mark Antony. By fleshing out the bare bones of these sketches, it was possible to reconstruct what the composer may have intended if he had had more time in which to complete the scene. As with the other two scores recorded at these sessions, the RSNO players and Martin Yates were on top form and entered wholeheartedly into John Ireland’s memorable music.

Purchase the recording:

Discover Ireland's songs

John Ireland wrote some 90 songs for solo voice and piano, plus many songs for two voices, unison songs and part songs. The best known by far is his setting of John Masefield's poem 'Sea Fever' (1913) which became extremely popular during and after the first world war and remains the most widely performed of his songs.

John Ireland is known for his craftsmanlike marrying of text and music and for his choice of poems.  In most of his songs the accompaniment is as finely conceived as the singer's line.  

He was particularly drawn to poets such as A E Housman - the song cycle 'The Land of Lost Content' is widely regarded as capturing the essence of Housman's unique blend of nostalgia, irony and passion - and Christina Rossetti, whose simplicity and concentrated emotion he captures in the cycle' Mother and Child'.  

Ireland also liked to set texts by little known poets, e.g. the three powerful WW1 poems by Eric Thirkell Cooper ('Blind', 'The Cost' and 'A Garrison Churchyard') and 'The Trellis' (1918) by a then little-known author called Aldous Huxley.  He seems to have been particularly attracted to women poets such as Sylvia Townsend Warner, Alice Meynell, Emily Bronte, and Mary Coleridge), and he also set many poems by Thomas Hardy.  

Trust announces first Patrons

Four leading musicians – all international ambassadors for British music – have been appointed patrons of the John Ireland Charitable Trust with immediate effect. Mark Bebbington, Julian Lloyd Webber, Roderick Williams OBE and John Wilson are stalwart interpreters of Ireland’s music and committed to bringing his works to the wider consciousness through their recording and performances.

John Ireland’s legacy
The English composer John Ireland, (1879-1962), was born near Manchester, studied and taught at the Royal College of Music, lived in Chelsea, London for over 50 years and died in a converted windmill in Sussex. Ireland’s foremost inspirations were the ancient landscapes of the Channel Islands, Dorset and Sussex and the writings of pagan mystic Arthur Machen; the composer recounting that he himself had experienced a ‘vision’ on the South Downs.
The John Ireland Trust was formed in 1968 by Norah Kirby, Ireland’s companion, secretary and house-keeper, for the purpose of supporting performances, publication and recordings of the composer’s music.

“Searing, intense romanticism within a framework of uniquely English restraint...”
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of recordings and performances of Ireland’s songs, chamber and choral works, many supported by the Trust, while Ireland's orchestral music has been taken up by leading conductors, including John Wilson, who has recorded the Piano Concerto, 'Legend', 'Mai-Dun', 'The Forgotten Rite', Satyricon Overture, The Overlanders Suite, A London Overture and the Epic March.

Of Ireland’s orchestral music, John Wilson has said, “It was Alan Rowlands, my piano teacher at the Royal College of Music, who introduced me to the music of John Ireland. Within the first few seconds of hearing ‘The Forgotten Rite’ I knew that this music was for me - I found the combination of searing, intense romanticism within a framework of uniquely English restraint intensely alluring. I also immediately appreciated the intellectual rigour of Ireland’s music; from the simplest piano piece to the larger scale orchestral and choral works, every last note serves a purpose. When Ireland was asked if he felt he was a 'great composer’, he replied “no, but I think I’m a significant one.” His significance and stature as a unique voice at the heart of the English musical renaissance grows with each passing decade.”

“…an unparalleled achievement in British pianism.”
Ireland’s enduring compositions for solo piano, including Sarnia and London Pieces, and the emotionally-charged Sonata for Cello and Piano have been enjoying particular popularity with artists and audiences alike. Major orchestral performances of the intensely personal Piano Concerto – once a regular at the BBC Proms – have also been taking place internationally, given by some of the composer’s current champions, including the British specialist, Mark Bebbington, who has recorded the concerto as well as the complete solo piano works for the SOMM label.

“The piano works of John Ireland represent the most significant body of piano music by any twentieth-century British composer”, explained Mark. “The richness of the writing, combined with its lyricism and brooding melancholy lend the music an intensity quite unique in British music.”
“Ireland wrote for the piano throughout his life and from the outset, his natural kinship with the instrument is self-evident; whether drawing the last measure of tonal splendour from a masterpiece such as ‘Sarnia’, or evoking his beloved West Sussex countryside in his miniature ‘Amberley Wild Brooks’, Ireland’s keyboard works are an unparalleled achievement in British pianism.”

“…gift for melody…”
Widely regarded as one of the finest musicians of his generation and following on from his performing career, Julian Lloyd Webber is now the Principal of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

“I discovered Ireland’s gift for melody when playing all the cello music composed by him during my student days at the Royal College of Music”, said Julian, “later arranging some of the composer’s delightful part songs for two cellos and piano, and recording them for Naxos with my wife, the cellist Jiaxin Cheng, and pianist John Lenehan. One of my most memorable musical memories is of playing John Ireland’s wonderful Cello Sonata in a converted railway shed in Curitiba, Brazil! A thunderstorm struck in the middle of the performance and the music felt visceral, alive.”

"Ireland's music has been an integral part of my life...”
Ireland wrote over 90 songs, of which 'Sea Fever', to words by John Masefield, is the best known. Housman, Hardy, and Rossetti are amongst the diverse selection of English poets he chose set, with their timeless themes of love, loss and regret, and perhaps to express the conflicting personality traits lying under the composer’s quiet exterior; sometimes jovial and carefree, on other occasions, cantankerous and unattractive.

Ireland’s songs continue to find favour with singers of all ages and regularly feature in British song recitals in festivals and recitals around the world. Internationally renowned British baritone soloist, Roderick Williams, has recently transcribed 'Sea Fever' for piano solo; he said, “Ireland’s music has been an integral part of my life, from my choirboy days when I first encountered his anthem, ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’, to my career as a singer. ‘Sea Fever’ featured in my first ever professional song recital and I continue to programme his songs to this very day. I’m happy to think my patronage of the Trust will bring me in to contact with many more friends of John Ireland’s music.”

David Wordsworth appointed as new Director of the John Ireland Charitable Trust

Music Director, conductor and promoter, David Wordsworth, has been appointed Director of the John Ireland Charitable Trust with effect from November 2017.  Wordsworth succeeds Bruce Phillips, who has been Director of the Trust for over a decade.  The Trust was formed in 1968 by Norah Kirby, Ireland’s companion, secretary and house-keeper, for the purpose of supporting performances, publication and recordings of the composer’s music.
David Wordsworth has worked as a conductor, teacher, pianist, publisher, writer on music and as a promoter of contemporary music.  Amongst many other responsibilities, David has been Music Director of the London-based Addison Singers for over twenty years and has in addition conducted choirs of all kinds in many parts of the world.
Wordsworth was Artistic Director of the 5-day Festival ‘John Ireland in Chelsea’, where Ireland was organist, which marked the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death and was mounted by the Trust in 2012.  The Festival programme included many of Ireland’s major works, alongside pieces by his pupils Benjamin Britten, Alan Bush, Geoffrey Bush, Richard Arnell, E J Moeran and Helen Perkin, as well as his teacher Charles Villiers Stanford.
David Wordsworth is currently curating a year-long festival of American music being held at St John’s Smith Square, London, in which he will conduct a number of iconic American works including Bernstein’s ‘Chichester Psalms’.  Recent and forthcoming projects include a performances of Haydn’s ‘Nelson Mass’, Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, fund-raising ‘Come and Sing’ concerts, and a rare performance of the Mozart ‘Requiem’ with the accompaniment transcribed by Czerny for piano duet.  Other highlights include a trip to Austria with his own group, The Addison Singers, and a celebration of Howard Skempton’s 70th birthday at King’s Place.  In 2018 he will become Associate Artistic Director of the Brandenburg Choral Festival of London, and make his debut at the world-renowned Three Choirs Festival.  David Wordsworth’s world premiere recording of Sir Lennox Berkeley’s ‘Stabat Mater’ on Delphian Records was released last year to considerable critical acclaim and was nominated for a Gramophone Award.
David Wordsworth writes of his appointment: “I remember the first time I came across Ireland’s music - I was around 16 years old and one of the ‘London Pieces’ had been set as a Grade 8 piece for my Associated Board exam.  Even then, his music made the most profound impression on me, for reasons that I perhaps didn’t realise at the time, but have become clearer as time has gone on.  The combination of that very particular English melancholy, a wonderful gift for melody, impressionistic harmony and a restrained passion, make his voice instantly recognisable and I have come back to the music as a listener and performer many times since.  With all this in mind, it is with a great sense of pride that I take over as Director of the John Ireland Trust and with some trepidation as I succeed Bruce Phillips who has fulfilled the role with such distinction for so many years.”
John Ireland’s legacy
The English composer John Ireland (1879-1962) was born near Manchester, studied and taught at the Royal College of Music, lived in Chelsea for over 50 years and died in a converted windmill in Sussex in 1962. 
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of recordings and performances of John Ireland’s songs, chamber and choral works – many by the younger generation of artists – which have been supported by the Trust.  These artists have included Rebeca Omordia, Maria Marchant, Clare Howick, Philip Handy, Peter Cigleris, Roderick Williams, Kitty Whately and the Carice Singers.  Ireland's orchestral music has been taken up by conductors including John Wilson and Martin Yates
Ireland’s enduring compositions for solo piano, including ‘Sarnia’ and ‘London Pieces’, and the emotionally-charged Cello Sonata have been enjoying particular popularity with artists and audiences alike.  Major orchestral performances of the intensely personal Piano Concerto – once a regular at the BBC Proms – have also been taking place internationally, given by some of the composer’s current champions; Mark Bebbington, Leon McCawley, John Lenehan, Victor Sangiorgio and John Paul Ekins.

2017 has seen the 100th anniversary of the work which propelled Ireland into the limelight; the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor.  Violinists Madeleine Mitchell, Susanne Stanzeleit, Midori Komachi, Sophie Rosa, Julia Liang and Louisa Stonehill (who also recorded the work this year) have been amongst the soloists taking up the work to commemorate the centenary, several of these performances being supported by the Trust.
For further information refer to: or contact David Wordsworth:

Latest recordings

see more on the New Releases page.

The Trust is registered as a charity. Reg. No. 255004
Trustees: David Wordsworth, Graham Parlett, Simon Wright.

Web design by Sparticle