John Nicholson Ireland, an English composer, was born into a Scottish family of certain ethnic differentiation. His parents died not long after he enrolled at the Royal College of Music as a 14-year-old. There, he learned piano and keyboard, as well as composition, with Charles Villiers Stanford. Following that, John Ireland became an instructor at the College, where he taught Ernest John Moeran (who respected him) and Benjamin Britten (who was less interested in Ireland's teaching). He began his career as a sub-organist at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, London SW1, before moving on to St. Luke's Church, Chelsea, London, as organist and choirmaster. Ireland toured the Channel Islands regularly and was fascinated by their scenery; he was rescued from them only before the German invasion during WWII. Ireland retired in 1953 and lived the rest of his life in the remote Sussex hamlet of Rock. He is buried in the Shipley churchyard, which is close by.
John Ireland inherited a comprehensive knowledge of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, and other German classics from Stanford, but he was also inspired by Debussy and Ravel, as well as earlier works by Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók, as a young man. He created his own version of "English Impressionism" based on these styles, which was more akin to French and Russian models than the folk-song form that dominated English music at the time. John Ireland, like many other Impressionist composers, preferred limited forms and did not write symphonies or operas, though his Piano Concerto is one of his strongest compositions. His compositions involve chamber music and a vast body of piano works, including his best-known piece, The Holy Child, which has been orchestrated several times. His songs set to poetry by A. E. Housman, Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti, John Masefield, and Rupert Brooke enrich the English vocal range. He also composed hymns, carols, and other religious choral music as a result of his work at St. Luke's Church; among choirs, he is well known for the anthem Greater Love, which is often performed in services commemorating war victims. In addition, his Communion Service in C is held. After his passing, his student Geoffrey Bush completed or re-transcribed several of his works, including the famous A Downland Suite.
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