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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    IVOR GURNEY IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

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Gurney's letters to the Chapman family (we possess letters to all of them except his first love, Kitty) reveal -- as Antony Boden's telling book Stars in a Dark Night (Alan Sutton) and Gurney's Collected Letters, edited by RKR Thornton (Carcanet/Midnag) show -- the riotous fun they shared together at the Chapmans' house and in the environs of High Wycombe, and of which he was the undoubted ringleader.

From training camp (in 1915) : 'To the Paleface Chief Arthur : Glass-eyes, the player on instruments, sends thee greeting. Announces that he has 4 or 5 loaded blanks which may arrive at Chief Arthur's wigwam at any moment ... Someday we will hunt together on Keep Hill and gather many scalps to hand round our umbrellas.' 'My Dear Kids, How's hockey? How's cats? How's Football? Do you remember how the Gadarene swine used to run down the quarry at Keep Hill?'

Inevitably Gurney, pent up and emotional, fell for the younger Chapmans : soon after he arrived he tried courting the eldest, Catherine (Kitty). When Mr Chapman, chief clerk to the goods manager of the Great Western Railway, Paddington, wisely but firmly applied the brakes to an unlikely romance, Gurney's attention soon turned to her sister, the frail but characterful Winnie. (Telegram) 21st April l9l5 : 'Shall be Paddington ladies waiting room from 4.l5-6.30. Could you come bring family Winnie anyway. Reply Paddington. Ivor'.

But above all, it was the fusing of landscape and music that provided the key to Gurney's personality as a composer : 'What must High Wycombe hills look like now! Great clouds of miraculous green, green that looks alive and gifted with a voice.'

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Copyright © 17 July 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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