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Fruday 29th June

The Piper of Dreams

St John The Baptist Church
Directions to St John the Baptist Church, Ripe

A chamber music concert celebrating the music of the late Ruth Gipps, who lived in Sussex and was organist at Ripe in the 1980s. The programme includes music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Bliss. Directed by Toby Hawks.

Arthur Bliss Conversations
Edward Elgar Andante and Allegro
Ruth Gipps Chamois / Suite for two violins / Cool Running Water / The Piper of Dreams / Lyric Fantasy / Evocation / Scherzo and Adagio
Gordon Jacob Four Fancies
Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending

Ruth Gipps was a hugely significant figure in twentieth century British musical life. A child prodigy born in Bexhill-on-Sea in 1921, she entered the Royal College of Music in 1937, where she studied composition, first with Ralph Vaughan Williams and then with Gordon Jacob. She lived a life of extraordinary creative and organsisational energy, composing an impressive catalogue of orchestral, choral and chamber music, on top of playing the oboe and cor anglais professionally, founding orchestras and teaching music at the highest level.

Yet her music is unperformed and largely forgotten: if she is remembered at all, it is condescendingly, as an outspoken and 'difficult' woman in a man's musical world, where her richly lyrical, rhythmically inventive style, firmly rooted in twentieth-century tonality, was at odds with the prevailing taste for atonality and experimentalism. 

The time is ripe for a Ruth Gipps Retrospective.

Ruth Gipps in All Saints Hospital Chapel c. 1985 conducting the Chalvington Singers

In retirement, Gipps returned to Sussex, living at Tickerage Castle near Framfield until her death. From here she sallied forth, whatever the weather, in her open-top Morgan to conduct choirs, such as the Chalvington Singers, and play the organ in local churches, including Ripe - which forms the perfect venue for an enchanting introduction to Gipps's oeuvre.

Ruth Gipps in All Saints Hospital Chapel c. 1985 conducting the Chalvington Singers

In collaboration with Gipps’s son and daughter-in-law, violinist Toby Hawks has compiled a programme of Gipps’s chamber works spanning her whole career and reflecting the great breadth and charm of her small-scale output.

Interleaved with Gipps's works are works by four other giants of English music. Arthur Bliss's stylish Conversations burst onto the post-war musical scene in 1921 – just as Ruth Gipps did; Edward Elgar's early and seldom-heard Andante and Allegro was written for the instrument Gipps came to master and make her profession – the oboe. Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams both taught Gipps composition and had a lasting effect on her stylistic development: the former is represented by his delightful Four Fancies, and the latter by one of his loveliest works – The Lark Ascending – which received its orchestral première in 1921.

Ruth Gipps in All Saints Hospital Chapel c. 1985 conducting the Chalvington Singers
Toby Hawkes
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