"The recent researches of Dr. Don Gillespie have succeeded in fleshing out the erstwhile-shadowy figure of this Thomas Ward and recording much detail of his life as the result of a piece of detection almost unparalleled in its thoroughness and fascination."--Robert Threlfall, Delius' Musical Apprenticeship
"Scholarship of the highest quality transformed into a story of great entertainment and intrigue. . . . This book will be of use to all scholars of 19th- and early 20th-century music for the light it casts on the development of Delius's mature compositional style, as well as to general readers interested in the cultural history of 19th-century Brooklyn and Florida."--William Duckworth, Bucknell University
From the foreword:
"Speaking of those early days in Florida, Delius once said to me, 'Ward's counterpoint lessons were the only lessons from which I ever derived any benefit. He showed wonderful insight in helping me to find out just how much in the way of traditional technique would be useful to me.'"
Thomas F. Ward (1856-1912), the American teacher of the composer Frederick Delius, died in historical oblivion and was buried in an unmarked grave, apparently too poor to pay his own funeral expenses. This biography of Ward describes his crucial influence on Delius, an Englishman whose formative musical years were spent under Ward's tutelage in the mid-1880s on an orange plantation on the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville, Florida.
Don Gillespie's fascination with Delius began when, as an undergraduate music student from a south Georgia town, he was drawn to a haunting picture--a cabin in a swamp, some cypress trees, hanging moss--on one of the composer's record jackets. Delius's evocative southern harmonies played in Gillespie's mind throughout decades of hectic work in music publishing in New York City. His lifelong fascination with Delius eventually led to an obsession with the mysterious aura surrounding the composer's most important teacher.
Gillespie traces Ward's life from his Catholic musical upbringing as an orphan in Brooklyn, to many parts of Florida, to his death in Houston, offering new information about art and folk music in both Brooklyn and Florida in the late 19th century.
A leitmotiv running through the book is the African-American folksong "Oh Honey, I Am Going Down the River in the Morning," whose origin in northern Florida was previously unverified and which forms the basis of one of Delius's most famous orchestral/choral compositions, his tone portrait of the American South, "Appalachia."
Don C. Gillespie is vice president and director of special editorial projects with the C. F. Peters Corporation in New York City. He has prepared manuscripts for publication and edited scores by Babbitt, Becker, Cage, Crumb, Feldman, Takemitsu, and numerous other composers in the Peters Catalogue, and he has written widely for journals such as Musical America, The Musical Quarterly, and Notes. Among many professional activities, he is a member of the Delius Society of London and the Delius Association of Florida.
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"a marvel of scholarly research. It often reads like a mystery story as the author follows clue after clue, many leading in diverse directions, only to come on a 'find' that sets him off again."
"a mystery-adventure story worthy of the best writers of that genre. The remarkable thing about his narrative is that it is not fantasy."
--Florida Historical Quarterly
"Don Gillespie's masterly biography of the man whose lasting claim to fame is that he provided for Delius 'the only lessons from which I ever derived any benefit' will be of tremendous interest to all lovers and scholars of Delius's music. But it should also appeal to a much wider readership."
--Delius Society Journal (UK)
"a fascinating detective story. Mr. Gillespie succeeds in drawing out the shadowy figure of Thomas Ward, the man Delius described as his only true music teacher, and giving him shape and substance."
--Delian (Delius Society, U.S.)
"It is altogether fitting that Don Gillespie's delicate and beautifully written book, the product of a thirty-year quest that began when the author was an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, should be so precise in its facts and yet so poetical in its trailing of local history into the spiritual (and perhaps sexual) maze that Delius must have encountered."
"Until the completion of Don Gillespie's pioneer research, Ward was a shadowy figure. gratefully acknowledged by Delius as an important musical influence, but fading as mysteriously out of Delius's life as he had entered it." "Gillespie's sleuthing in search of Ward is above praise"
--Musical Times (London)
"What emerges from this wonderful book is the compassion and sensitivity that a writer can bring to understanding the complex psychology of a man first saved, then rejected by the Church in a less liberal age than our own." -- Tempo