Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Tuesday, 6th November, 2007
AT 12.45 p.m. today, the Mayor of Wakefield unveiled a plaque at the birthplace of composer William Baines (1899–1922) at 11 Shepstye Road, Horbury. The Civic Society, with the enthusiastic support of the Friends of Horbury Library, hope this will be the first of several plaques they have planned for the town.
After a buffet lunch at the library, I led a group of 30 people on a walk around the Bainesian corners of Horbury;
his school, the Wesleyan Day School, now a joiner's workshop
the site of Horbury Co-op Cinema where William, then aged just 13, occasionally deputised for his father as pianist in the days of silent films
the Methodist Church, which contains a memorial plaque in oak and cast bronze to Baines which was originally in the Primitive Methodist Chapel (now demolished) next door, where his father was organist
Queen Street, where I read out a letter to pianist Frederick Dawson, which William had written, with some difficulty, while lying in a hammock in the back garden of no. 17 on a hot August day in 1921
the site of his father's music shop by St Peter’s Church
and finally we stopped at William’s grave.
At the Grave of William Baines
Although it’s exactly 85 years since William died of tuberculosis, aged only 23, today felt like a celebration. The floral tribute was arranged by Joan Fawcett of the Civic Society; she went for the natural look, to reflect William’s love of nature which is so evident in his music, to which she added a large treble clef fashioned from metallic tubing.
Robin Walker, who also added a small floral tribute, is the composer At the Grave of William Baines, first performed in Manchester in January 2000.
In 1972, the 50th anniversary of William's death, I did some research, talking to his surviving friends and relatives as my final project at Leeds College of Art. This resulted in a leaflet (still available from me!), two concerts and an ambitious exhibition for the Harrogate Festival which included a slide show set to some of his music and reconstructed rooms representing the phases of William’s life.
Going through my Baines files to find material for this afternoon’s walk, I came across these pen and ink drawings (below) from an early rough for the leaflet. They’re my interpretations of his composition for piano, Paradise Gardens, inspired by the view from the walls of York on a summer evening, Goodnight to Flamboro’, in which you can hear the rhythm of the waves, and The Lone Wreck. I was more adventurous with my colour in those days. Perhaps Baines was a good influence on my imagination.
I also see a strong influence from Victor Ambrus, you can see I've tried to go for his wiry line, tumbling compositions and lively use of thumb-prints.
|Paradise Gardens||The Lone Wreck|
Robin Walker gave us an impromptu performance of the first few bars of Paradise Gardens when we visited the Methodist Church during our walk. The church has a Bechstein grand piano. I remember visiting Nun Appleton Hall and being told by Joan Dawson (no relation to the pianist, Frederick), who remembered from her childhood Baines’ visits there, that, of the two grand pianos in the Hall, William preferred the Bechstein to the Steinway.
I hope we’ll be able to hold a concert in the church soon. It will have to be soon because there are plans to demolish the stone-built Victorian chapel with its modest spire, gargoyle or two and twin granite columns at the door, and replace it with an up-to-date place of worship.
But they do promise that they'll keep the Bechstein and the old Primitive Methodist school room, which still stands on land behind the church, is to escape demolition.
Karl S Wood, William's
friend who he met in York on Demobilization Day – January
24 1919. This biographical article by Dr Tony Shaw includes a chapter