Transatlantic Rhapsodies: South London Links

Last October, our news item on Joseph Haydn and Jonathan Dove reminded readers that LCS members had participated in a production of Jonathan Dove’s Tobias & the Angel in 2006, and commercially recorded the work four years later.

Now as we sing more of Jonathan’s music at our July 10th Transatlantic Rhapsodies concert – The Passing of the Year and Seek Him that Maketh the Seven Stars, programme compiler Martin Bull has discovered more links between the composer and three members of our choir: they all went to the same school!

St Joseph’s Academy had begun life in 1860, moving to various parts of South London before settling in Lee Terrace, Blackheath in 1919. Rather later than that, LCS bass John Griffith attended the school, followed a little while later by LCS bass John Connor and Jonathan Dove, who were in the same class. Lastly, another St Joseph’s schoolboy – LCS tenor Andy Scripture sang in the school choir with Jonathan.

One more well-known former pupil of the Academy was author David Lodge; and although it was a Roman Catholic school, one schoolboy went on to become the Anglican Bishop of St Helena! The school finally closed its doors in 2007.

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Whilst researching poet, short story writer and novelist Walter de la Mare’s Fare Well, the Randall Thompson choral setting of which LCS will sing in a few weeks, Martin found another South London link, this time in SE7.

Walter, or Jack as he preferred, particularly known for his poem The Listeners, was born on 25 April 1873 into a family of seven children in a small – and thus inevitably crowded – house at 83 Maryon Road in what was then the old village of Charlton.

Jack’s uncle Abraham was the first vicar of St Thomas’s Church on Maryon Road and Woodland Terrace and is buried in a family tomb in the churchyard, and some LCS members used to sing with the Maryon Singers, rehearsing and performing in the church under a memorial plaque to Abraham.

On the death of Jack’s father in 1877 his mother moved with her children to what is now Bovill Road in Forest Hill. At the age of 26 the poet married and the young couple moved to Mackenzie Road in Beckenham and later to Anerley.

It was while the de la Mares were living at 14 Thornsett Road in Anerley that Jack was to pen his war poem Fare Well, in which he speaks of his awareness of impending death and its inevitability. The poem was admired by Jack’s fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon – the two had met in 1918 – having been published a year earlier among a collection entitled The Sunken Garden and other poems.

De la Mare died in 1956 and his ashes were buried not in the Charlton family tomb but in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.


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