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One page autographed letter signed by the composer, conductor, Frederick Delius's amanuensis and promoter of Delius's music regarding his 1936 biography/autobiography of his time with Delius, Delius As I Knew Him and his Delius lectures to Mr. Harold Chipp, Secretary of the Cheltenham Gramophone Society, March 3, 1949.

Fenby writes:

3rd March 49.

 

Dear Mr. Chipp,

 

During my visit to Cheltenham I was asked repeatedly if it was still possible to purchase any book on Delius.

 

A third edition has appeared.  Perhaps you would kindly bring it to the notice of your Gramophone Society? Thank you.

 

With good wishes,

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Fenby’s wrote several books on Delius, all have received multiple printings.  The most recent of Delius As I Knew Him was in 2019.

 

Fenby (1906-1997) was an organ prodigy from Scarborough, performing as the organist in churches from the age of twelve.  He received lessons in piano, organ and cello as a child, but otherwise was self -taught.  At the age of eighteen, in 1924, he decided to end his organ career and became a composer.  His first mature compositions were heard when Fenby conducted his own works with the local Scarborough Symphony Orchestra.  In early 1928, Frederick Delius’s wife Jeleka sent out a request for a musical assistant for her husband who was in the tertiary stage of syphilis and had lost his sight and the use of his limbs.  The young composer heard a performance of Delius’s “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring” and was elated by the music that he wrote to Delius, not once, but twice.  He was invited in October of that year to visit Delius in his home in Grez-sur-Loing, where he was hired as his amanuensis.  Fenby worked diligently with the difficult Delius to create a system where he could understand Delius’s dictation and ideas and turn it into music.  To make matters interesting, they battled on the religious front, as Delius was an atheist and Fenby was a Catholic.  They pair found common ground in the sport of cricket.  Whilst with the Delius’s, Fenby endured a monastic lifestyle living in a bare room without heat in the Winter and fans in the Summer.  Delius would occasionally have visits from musical friends which provided some stimulation outside of his work with the composer.  As Jeleka was suffering from her own illness and was often in the hospital, Fenby became Delius’s full-time nurse as well.  Together, the composer and Fenby wrote, “Songs of Farewell” for double chorus and orchestra in 1929, “Fantastic Dance” for orchestra dedicated to Fenby in 1930, they revised and re-arranged Delius’s 1925 “A Late Lark” in 1929, the 3rd violin sonata in 1930, “Caprice and Elegy” for cello and orchestra in 1930, “Irmelin Prelude” for woodwind and string orchestra and “Idyll” for soprano, baritone and orchestra in 1932. After 1932, Delius was too ill to compose and in 1934 died in Fenby’s arms.  Delius wished to be buried on the grounds of his home which was forbidden by the government, so he was initially interred in the local cemetery in Grez.  A year later with an ill Jeleka, Fenby took the composer’s body to England for re-burial.  Jeleka passed away two days later and she was interred next to him.

Fenby returned to England and resettled in his hometown of Scarborough, married and composed, conducted, wrote two other books including a biography of Delius, taught music, ran a Delius Festival to mark his Centenary in 1962 (he received an OBE) and spoke on his mentor.  Alfred Hitchcock hired Fenby to compose the music for his 1938 film, “Jamaica Inn” which production was stopped due to the War.

 

The film “Song of Summer” details the relationship between Delius and Fenby.

           ERIC FENBY - COMPOSER
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