Letters

The High Adventure. Gibbs writes to his daughter, Ann in October 1955 :

‘Mother and I and the Brig. (Brigadier Hawkes – often called Hawkie – a good friend living in Danbury) went up to the RAM and there met Adrian and some 150 teachers who are going to teach my big choral work ‘The High Adventure’’* to their choirs. We played the work over on the pianos and discussed the tempi and other points. Everyone was amazingly enthusiastic. The great performance (choir of 1000 and orchestra of 150) is in the Albert Hall early next May.’

*The High Adventure – A cantata for mixed chorus and orchestra Opus 136, composed 1955 with words by Benedict Ellis.

Adjudicating. Honor Gibbs writes to her daughter, November 1949 :

Dad has been sunk fathoms deep in composition lately and has produced a set of De La Mare for female voices that he thinks is the best stuff he has done for years if ever.* Result – Friday night Ernie Roast on the phone “we wonder if the doctor is coming to the cricket meeting” – and off he went in a cloud of dust. Saturday – 10.30 a voice on the phone: “Mrs Forsyth speaking from the Odeon – I have 300 school children who have been waiting since 9.30 for Dr Gibbs to come and adjudicate their carol singing in connection with the eastern area portion of the competition organised by the Star”- and off he went in a cloud of dust; got there in 15 minutes, did the job by 12.30 to such an effect that they asked him to judge the all area finals in London on December 29th when the finalists will be given a Christmas dinner and taken to the circus afterwards. No expenses spared. 17 guineas + hotel and expenses for 2 hours work! Dad has accepted for the lunch but not the circus”.

*In a Dream’s beguiling – Suite of songs by De La Mare, written for mezzo-soprano solo (or semi-chorus), women’s choir (SSA) string orchestra and piano. Published by Boosey and Hawkes in 1951.

Herbert Howells writes to Gibbs following the death of Walter de la Mare in 1956 :

If there is any man with approved and rich right to be wistful over the death of a beloved man-of-genius it surely is yourself now that W.J. has gone from us. Ever since I heard (to my vast regret) of his death, you and he have gone singing though my mind, in my sheer gratitude for the linked beauty of his poems and your settings of them.
I doubt if you or he ever can have realised what deep appreciation there has been for what your marriage-of-true-minds gave us. Anyhow, one of your old friends tells you of it point blank, and with real affection

Honor Gibbs writes to her daughter, Ann, about a visit to Walter de la Mare – 1952/3:

… Most of important of all was our visit to Walter de la Mare on Tuesday at Richmond … We got there at 4 o’clock. We found him in a lovely old house called South End House, almost on the river. Very Georgian and very de la Marish. He lives there with a housekeeper /nurse as he has a bad heart. He was just as ever and greeted me with – ‘Honor, you look 3 months and a week younger than when I saw you last’. We had a superb tea all home made by the housekeeper, a charming person … We had quite a merry evening, for Wr. De la Mare asked us to stay to supper and took us out to a little Italian restaurant where we had a jolly good dinner and much laughter. Jack noticed that his usual waiter was absent and asked after him and was told he was in hospital. ‘Oh, I’ m sorry, what is the matter with him?’ ‘Well’ said the waiter confidentially, ‘It’s ’is ’eart, liver and kidneys – in fact as you might say it’s a mixed grill complaint’. We got home about 11o’clock.

Vaughan Williams’ 80th birthday dinner. Honor Gibbs writes to her daughter, November 1952 :

… 5.45 Tuesday – Gosh what a hectic time. There were 350 guests at the Trocadero. The dinner was given by the Incorporated Society of Musicians to Vaughan Williams in honour of his 80th birthday – and all the musical world & his wife were there and over 200 had been turned away. … We weren’t at the high table but at quite a lofty one with Arthur Bliss, Rubbra and other shining ones. ‘Me black’ did its best and Dad is always sweet and says I look nice that I feel it makes me look my best … … VW made an excellent speech – his notes propped up by chrysanthemums and his ear trumpet handy. He advised the young composers, ‘by whom I mean anyone younger than me’ to speak their own language & not write Wagner & watch or search the wastepaper baskets of Debussy. … … this is what I always consider Daddy has done & does, which is good I felt proud to see him greeted & acclaimed by so many of the great – and it has done him a lot of good and made him feel he is someone among those who count musically… . … After the speeches by Herbert Howells as President, VW in reply, Sir Ronald Storrs and Sir George Dyson it was nearly 11 & the entertainer got a bit pushed out.

In a letter to his daughter and son-in-law in May 1958, Gibbs describes the first performance in Carlisle of the cantata The Turning Year:

Hence to the Covered Market, a vast cold hall with 1000 children and 2000 in the audience. 120 teenagers sang my turning Year v well indeed. & it was received with enormous enthusiasm – last movement repeated & I had to make a speech. The performance had one serious fault – due to the inexperience or/and nervousness of the young Director of Music who conducted. Everything was rushed in tempo. He actually cut over 5 minutes off the correct time for the work! I was a bit peeved in No 3 Winter It is marked to go very slow & to ensure this I put the unusual time signature 8/8 instead of 4 to ensure it should be beaten in quavers. But he took it at a cheerful 4! Still there’s no doubt it is a good work & comes off brilliantly.

The Oundle Festival 1950. Honor Gibbs to her daughter Ann:

“So much of humour and interest happened at Oundle. I longed to have time to write you a long account – from the old lady of 82 who had been Queen Mary’s Lady in Waiting and a good old battleaxe too who gave away the prizes with great vigour and aplomb – to the old granny of nearly the same age who sang with her contemporaries in the WI choir; and the excellent male choir of Latvian d.ps from Corby steel works who won a cup amid great applause and cheering and gave us an encore in their own language. All dressed alike in smart navy suits provided by the British Government…” “And then the church choirs – whose competitions took part in the really lovely old church – and Dad’s opening speech in which he said he wished all choirs could be judged in the churches for music was for the greater glory of God…” “Then there was the enthusiastic and v. stout secretary who came running up to greet us, tripped and fell heavily – I rushed to help her up – ‘all right dear, always doing it – never hurt. I bounce – so beautifully fat.’”