Here’s a special treat for all music lovers – the only piece of contemporary classical music written about the 1916 Rising.
In Memoriam was composed by a friend of the Proclamation Signatories in the summer of 1916 and dedicated to the memory of Patrick Pearse.
Arnold Bax, the composer, was also Master of the King’s Music, knighted in 1937 and appointed Royal Laureate in 1941.
Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax (8 November 1883 – 3 October 1953) was born into a wealthy English family and was extremely gifted in music. While still a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London Bax became fascinated with Ireland and Celtic culture. Reading Yeats’s poems inspired him to visit Donegal where he found that “in a moment the Celt within me stood revealed”
“I worked very hard at the Irish language and steeped myself in its history and saga, folk-tale and fairy-lore. … Under this domination, my musical style became strengthened … I began to write Irishly, using figures and melodies of a definitely Celtic curve”. Bax in his memoirs, 1943
He lived in Dublin from 1911-1913, where he made friends with George Russell (AE), Thomas MacDonagh and Patrick Pearse who thought Bax might have been “one of us”. Poems and stories that he wrote under a pseudonym were banned as they were considered Republican sedition.
Bax returned to London at the beginning of WWI and was utterly shocked and distressed when, two years later, he heard about the Easter Rising, Pearse’s part in it and the execution of his friends.
Throughout his life Bax was a regular visitor to Ireland, particularly Glencolumcille in Co Donegal and indeed died of heart failure while visiting Cork in October 1953. He is buried in St Finbarr’s Cemetery, Cork