Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Stanley Wilson: Ship Ahoy! for piano

I discovered this piece of piano music in the Oxfam bookshop in Worcester. If I am honest, it was the deliciously ‘camp’ –in a ‘Carry On’ sense – cover that caught my eye. I guess it would just not be possible to publish something like this in our more politically correct, sensitive days.

Stanley Wilson is a minor composer who seemed most at home with song writing. There are settings of John Masefield and A.E. Housman in the catalogues. I was unable to find any references to his life and times.

Ship Ahoy! is a set of ‘twelve nautical scenes’ for pianoforte. They were composed, or at least published in 1932 by James Forsyth in Manchester. It was rather expensively prices for its time at 3/-. A working man was probably on £2 a week!

The 12 sketches all describe some aspect of a mariners life – ‘Messmates, Ben the Bosun, Up Channel, White Horses, The Lonely Lighthouse, Breakers, The Stowaway, Davy Jones Locker, In the Hammock, Mariner’s Star, the Middle Watch and finally Blue Peter. These titles can be construed in any way the reader or player wishes!

Yet these sketches are well written, imaginative and employ a considerable technique. Apart from the composer’s predilection for augmented fifths, the musical content is varied and satisfying. I guess that the playing standard is probably about Grade 5.

But perhaps the best advert for these pieces was the opinion of a well-known (but in this case unacknowledged) pianist who suggested that these ‘Nautical Sketches’ were worthy and he would certainly use such material in his piano teaching lessons. Luckily I can play most of them, myself!

Finally, based on these pieces I would love to come across a little bit more of the music of Stanley Wilson, especially, perhaps his setting of John Masefield’s ‘Tewksbury Road’. It may be very well worth hearing. And perhaps someone out there knows something of the composer?


Anonymous said...

When I took Grade 1 piano many years ago one of the set pieces "The Otter' was written by Stanley Wilson. It was with Trinity College.

Anonymous said...

"The Otter" came from a book of piano pieces by Stanley Wilson called, I think, "Under the Willows". Stanley Wilson was my music teacher when I was about twelve, at Dulwich College.

Wordworld said...

Stanley Wilson was Music Master at Dulwich College until his sudden death in 1953. Among other works he wrote "A Skye Symphony" - see article on Music Web International:

John France said...

Thanks for that Wordworld - I wonder where his 'archive' is located.


John F

Olivier Liétard said...

In a letter from my father to my mother, it was said that Stanley Wilson was broadcasted from the National on February 26, 1937 for the first play of a double concerto for violin and viole. I wonder whether it was his composition or Benjamin Britten's (1932). Anyone help? olietard@aol.com THANKS !

Unknown said...

Stanley Wilson's orchestral MSS are at the RCM. He did indeed write a concerto for violin and viola.

CityofLondonChamber Choir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
City of London Chamber Choir CLCC said...

The City of London Chamber Choir have recently sung Stanley Wilson's Te Deum and Jubilate Deo at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Recordings can be heard on Soundcloud. Our conductor, Christopher Field, was a pupil of his at Dulwich College.