Sunday, 6 March 2011

Ronald Swaffield: A lost composer

The composer Ronald Swaffield was brought to my attention by the pianist & musicologist Christopher Howell. He is presently recording a number of piano works, amongst which is Swaffield’s impressionistic ‘Rapallo’.
I have been unable to find out much about this composer on the ‘net and in the usual sources. He appears to have thrived (musically) between 1937 and 1958, although at the moment there is no info on his dates of birth and death (if in fact he is dead!)
I enclose a works list, which includes most of his published works: there is no way of telling how prolific he was. However, the piano piece Wayside Poppies would appear to have been excerpted from a Suite called Rustic Phantasy so there may be more pieces around than I have discovered. His main publisher would appear to be J.B. Cramer of London.
Let us hope that someone out there knows something. It would be nice to be able to at least give a nationality and some dates to the name. Meanwhile I await Mr. Howell’s recording of Swaffield’s Rapallo with great interest.

Works List
'Love came down at Christmas': carol for S.S.A with words by C. Rossetti. London: J. B. Cramer & Co, 1937
Mariner's Cradle Song, with words by R. K. Melluish. Arranged for Soprano Solo with Chorus of Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor and Bass. London: J. B. Cramer & Co, 1939
'Our Lady in the stable', with anonymous words. A carol for women's or boy's voices. London : Leonard, Gould & Bolttler, c1957
Rondel ‘Now Time throws off his Cloak’, with words by Longfellow, from the French of Charles D'Orleans. Unaccompanied Part Song, S.A.T.B London: J. B. Cramer & Co, 1938
Three wise Men: A choral song for Christmas, S.A.T.B, with words by R. K. Mellish. London: J. B. Cramer & Co, 1940
'Winter wan': S.A.T.B with words by R. W. Moore. London: J. B. Cramer & Co., c1958
Paradise Wood: piano solo. London: J.B. Cramer & Co., c1943
Rapallo: piano solo. London: J.B. Cramer & Co., [1937
Sailing along: piano solo. London: J.B. Cramer & Co., c1945
Wayside Poppies: piano solo [?] from suite "Rustic Phantasy". London: J. B. Cramer & Co., c.1959

1 comment:

Duncan Honeybourne said...

I was most interested to read your comments, as I have performed a number of Swaffield's piano pieces and have a particular interest as Ronald Swaffield lived for many years in Weymouth, Dorset, which happens to be my own hometown and where I have lived again for the past nine years. Alfred Ronald Owen Swaffield, to give him his full name, was born in Wimbledon in 1890 and died here in Weymouth in 1962. His father, Alfred Owen Swaffield, was born in Wyke Regis, near Weymouth, and I believe Ronald was brought here in his youth. For some years he taught at Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancs, but he returned to Weymouth and lived here for many years prior to his death. I performed "Rapallo" at one of my Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts in 2002, to mark the fortieth anniversary of Swaffield's death, at a time when several audience members remembered him. I have in mind to do something for the 50th anniv of his death next year. I am most interested to learn of Christopher Howell's Swaffield recording project; I have contemplated recording some Swaffield but I have faced a similar problem to your own, in meeting a striking lack of any information! The few facts I do have took a considerable amount of research and, whilst I have a number of piano pieces, there are a good number of others which I have never tracked down. It is very good to see others on the Swaffield trail!! Do keep me posted; I hope to commemorate this intriguing composer locally again and hope to "compare notes" with others researching him.

Duncan Honeybourne