ARNOLD BAX

6 May 2011

[Pic of Arnold Bax on cover of book]Years and years ago, I went to see the White sands of Morar with a girl called Barbara. This short trip was actually a long weekend that became My Scottish Tour.

We stayed at Fort William, travelled to Oban, and returned through Perth and Balmoral.  Apart from a wee run to the Electric Brae, that has been the sum total of my Scottish travels in my half-century.  Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against Scotland — nor England, for that matter (I know little of England too), but I will not get lost in Rome, London or Paris due to the weather, the food, the history, the museums and music and art…

Anyway.

Morar.

The reason I was talked into this Scottish Trip was because of Arnold Bax.

Arnold Bax was a composer I was studying at the time.  Not very well known even today, he was pretty famous once. In 1942, Bax was appointed Master of the King’s Musick, and he composed for the Queen’s coronation.

I was actually quite impressed with Morar, albeit on a blustery day, it had white sands, greeny blue sea, and palm trees, so our photographs (on my trusty Olympus OM10, with telephoto lens and filters) made it look like we were on a south sea tropical island!

Back to Bax. I have no problem with his Irishness, nor his romanticism; I think this is because he is always nostalgic for me.  Bax is my childhood, or at least that syrupy sweet, early television version of it.  There is something of the Whisky Galore, or Ealing Studio film about Bax that takes me to “that place”.

Through my study, I discovered that he was oddly in turmoil — receiving awards from the Queen (UK) pulled against his Irishness, and his music was being slated for being “old Fashioned” and melodic. He apparently never recovered from a relationship with a Ukranian lass, and he was influenced by quite a lot of disparate, but northern European, music, and I like that; I like that he was pretty conservative, and yet somehow he was the rebel. I like that Bax succeeded in his lifetime, but that it made little difference, other than to unsettle him.

In short, I had a lot of time for Arnold Bax.  I think he is all-too-quickly dismissed and forgotten.  Maybe one day Bax will be back, and we can hear his lush, large scale music more often.

The very least I owe Bax is that he made me do a lovely sunny mini tour of Scotland, during which I took a great many superb photographs! In fact, writing this has encouraged me to both dig out some Bax, and to consider visiting places nearer to home — maybe England, or Scotland again?  I’ve heard Yorkshire is lovely, as well as the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall. Hmm. We shall see…

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