CFP: [Poetry] Ivor Gurney Conference 8-9 Sept 07

full name / name of organization: 
James Allum


Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge University

Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September 2007

Ivor Gurney (1890 â€" 1937): Composer, Poet

Ivor Gurney was born in Gloucestershire, and after an apprenticeship as
assistant organist at Gloucester Cathedral took up a scholarship in 1911
to the Royal College of Music in London to study composition. There his
illustrious friendship group included Arthur Bliss, Herbert Howells and
Arthur Benjamin; a talented generation taught by Sir Charles Villiers
Stanford, Sir Hubert Parry and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Along with many
of his contemporaries, studies were interrupted by war service, and he
served in France from 1915 â€" 1917, before being discharged with
shellshock, and the lingering effects of a gas attack. He had struggled
to maintain mental stability before the war, suffering from ‘nerves’
and ‘neurasthenia’, and the years immediately succeeding the armistice
saw both prodigious creativity, and increasing illness; culminating in
his committal to an asylum in 1922. He was never to be released from
institutions, but his work continued for a surprising length of time,
despite the dual disabilities of mental deterioration and lack of a
critical audience. Some of his best-known war poetry was written
retrospectively from within the asylum, and his mature work is
characterised by his preoccupation with rewriting his war experiences,
and his lifelong passion for the beauty of his home county. Described at
the Royal College as ‘the English Schubert’, his voluminous song settings
display a uniquely sensitive relationship to their texts. His poetry
offers highly original, often idiosyncratic insights into the
appreciation of natural beauty, the experience of war, and the creative
interpretation of suffering.

There remains a wealth of unpublished material by Gurney, about which
much remains to be said. Gurney was almost unique in writing both poetry
and music, and thus provides a rich opportunity for interdisciplinary
discussion. This conference aims to examine both sides of his output in
equal measure, establishing a dialogue between the two, whilst placing
his work against the backdrop of the early twentieth century, war and the

The weekend will include papers given by international delegates,
addressing many issues relevant to Gurney’s life and work, poetry
readings, a formal dinner, and a recital of Gurney and other English song
by tenor Andrew Kennedy (Radio 3 New Generation Young Artist and winner
BBC Singer of the World Song Prize) including previously unheard and
unpublished works by both Gurney and his contemporary W. Denis Browne.

Keynote speakers: Kelsey Thornton (Newcastle University), Stephen
Banfield (Bristol University)

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Received on Thu Aug 02 2007 - 06:12:34 EDT