|Description||The collection comprises papers of Granville Bantock from the 1900s up until a month before his death. The bulk of the collection consists of Granville's letters to his second child, Raymond, along with a number of Raymond's letters in response to his father. There is some correspondence between Granville and various other individuals, largely related to Granville's musical career and his position at the University of Birmingham. There are also a number of postcards, mostly sent from Granville to various members of his family, which demonstrate the extent of his travel and his interest in the Far-East. |
The correspondence of Granville and his son covers a wide range of subjects. The letters span the period from the 1910s up until the 1930s, and therefore would be of interest to researchers concerned with the First World War, the political climate between the two World Wars, as well as literary and cultural developments in this period. The letters cover Raymond's training and work in the Navy, his time as a student at the University of Oxford, the period he spent as a teacher in Japan, and his later life as a family man with young children. Granville was initially strongly opposed to Raymond's desire to pursue a career in art and literature as he saw it as an uncertain profession in post-war England. His letters make it clear that he would have preferred Raymond to have remained in the Navy and progressed up through the ranks. However, he later becomes very supportive of Raymond as an undergraduate, and then as a lecturer and academic both in the United Kingdom and in the Far East. The letters often refer to other members of the family, in particular, Angus, who served on the front-line during the First World War.
The Bantock family moved several times and there are accounts and details of each of their homes, largely in and around Birmingham. Their domestic life in general is a frequent topic; there is much discussion of their various pets, including kittens, dogs and birds. At one point Granville expresses an interest in 'table-turning séances' and there are references to his spiritual beliefs. The health of the family is also a favourite topic; Granville suffers regularly with coughs and colds, and frequently vows to cut down on his smoking. Later letters indicate some anti-Semitic feeling on the part of Granville, in particular his comments about his Jewish landlord in London and the musical editor of the Oxford University Press.
Granville's composition is a key topic throughout the collection. The letters evidence the gradual progress of many of Granville's works, including 'The Seal-Woman', 'The March', 'Oriental Dance', 'The Pagan Symphony', 'Pierrot of the Minute', 'The Song of Songs', and music for various plays including 'The Crescent Moon', 'Judith' and 'The Great God Pan'. Other musicians are mentioned in the collection, including Donald Tovey and Jean Sibelius. There are a number of letters referring to Sibelius's proposed visit to the United Kingdom in 1925.
|Administrative History||Bantock, Sir Granville Ransome (1868-1946), composer, was born on 7 August 1868 at 44 Cornwall Road, Notting Hill, London, the eldest son of an eminent surgeon and gynaecologist, George Granville Bantock (1837-1913), and his wife, Sophia Elizabeth (Bessie) Ransome (1843-1909). |
Granville's father resisted his son's desire to pursue music, and tried to encourage Granville to take up a career with the Indian Civil Service. After much resistance, however, he eventually allowed his son to study at the Trinity College of Music, followed by the Royal Academy of Music. On leaving the Academy, Granville founded the periodical 'New Quarterly Musical Review', and worked for several years in musical comedy, producing various hit musical hall songs.
His musical career really took-off in the late 1890s, when, in 1897, he was appointed musical director of the Tower Gardens in Cheshire. Bantock quickly transformed the military band at New Brighton into an orchestra of national reputation. He not only performed major orchestral works, but also devoted whole concerts to contemporary, often British, composers (invariably with them as guest conductors). He formed his own local choral society and took up an appointment with the Runcorn Choral Society in September 1897. He now began to mature as a composer; Songs of the East was begun in March 1896, and Elegiac Poem (1898) and Helena Variations (1899) were highlights amid continuing, more sprawling conceptions like Christus (1900).
In 1900, Bantock became principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of Music. He soon transformed the school into a vibrant musical centre, and also took up appointments with orchestral and choral societies in Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Worcester. In 1908 Bantock replaced Elgar as Peyton professor of music at Birmingham University and began intertwining the teaching of the two establishments into one enterprising, broad-based system of education, with many prominent figures becoming associated with their work. Conspicuously active in the musical life of his adopted city, he was instrumental in the early establishment of a city orchestra. His involvement in the competitive festivals movement as a composer and arranger of test pieces and as a much travelled judge now also became a major aspect of his work.
Bantock established his musical reputation whilst working in Birmingham, and wrote his best-known pieces, including the tone-poem 'Fifine at the Fair' (1911) and the overture 'The Pierrot of the Minute' (1908). Much of his music shows an interest in world-literature and works such as 'The Witch of Atlas' (1902) and 'Dante and Beatrice' (1910) demonstrate this. He also demonstrated a life-long interest in the East, as his work 'Omar Khayyam' shows. This is often regarded as his finest work and it was first performed in Birmingham in 1906, followed by performances at the Queen's Hall, London, and in Vienna. He drew influences from his Scottish heritage, such as in 'Hebridean Symphony' (1915), classical antiquity, as shown in 'Pagan Symphony' (1923-8), and the Bible, as demonstrated in 'Song of Songs' (1922).
Granville married Helen Francesca Maude (1868-1961), daughter of Carl Adolph Herman Schweitzer, on 9 March 1898. They had four children together, Angus, Raymond, Hamilton and Myrrha. Helen was a poet and artist and provided numerous texts for songs and vocal works. Granville had a further son with singer Denne Parker, and he is rumoured to have had other extra-marital affairs.
Granville Bantock was a charismatic and eccentric figure who left behind a large oeuvre, often inspired by poetic and exotic themes, much of which has fallen into obscurity. He was an early advocate of Sibelius, whom he played host to. He made friends easily, and often with prominent contemporaries, such as Edward Carpenter. He died in All Saints' Hospital in London on 16 October 1946, after a fall following a minor operation and his ashes were scattered on Moelwyn above Coed-y-bleiddiau, where the family had spent many happy holidays.
A Brief Introduction to the Life and Work of Sir Granville Bantock by Vincent Budd, available at http://www.musicweb-international.com/bantock/buddint.htm, viewed 10 April 2017;
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, available at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30577, viewed 10 April 2017.