Composer and Music Educator based in Sydney, Australia
Jim is a composer of operas, concertos, choral and orchestral works as well as pieces for solo instrument and chamber music. He has written for some of Australia's finest musicians but is also passionate about creating new music for young musicians, school ensembles and children.
Some of Jim's pieces are available at the Australian Music Centre
And may be heard on Soundcloud
Jim lectures in Music Education at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and holds a PhD from Sydney University. He is in demand as a leader of professional learning for music teachers, composition masterclasses for students in schools and as a director of community choirs.
Death in Sidmouth
A Dramatic Song Cycle
It is August 1947 and Harold Lancebury (‘Pallas’ to his pupils) has just completed nearly forty years as Music Master at Holt’s, an expensive English boarding school. He retires to a small hotel in the seaside resort of Sidmouth full of fond reminiscence. As autumn progresses, however, his world darkens as loneliness, purposelessness and despair overcome him.
Death in Sidmouth is rich in allusion and imagery and mines a deep vein of very English sensibility. Ghosts are here, the friendly and the hostile, in the music with its echoes of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten, and in the text with its quotations from the Romantic poets and its indebtedness to folk-ballad and to The Book of Common Prayer. Despite its profound Englishness, Death in Sidmouth is principally concerned with a universal theme – the fear of abandonment as we grow old.
The premiere recording available on this page features Sepehr Irandoost as Lancebury and The Gagliano Quartet.
Death in Sidmouth Recording
Death in Sidmouth
Sepehr Irandoost (bass-baritone)
The Gangliano Quartet
On ‘The Garden of Prosperpine’
With Jacques Emery (double bass)
Recorded at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, May 2019. David Kim-Boyle, Engineer and Producer.
This composition and its recording were completed as a non-traditional research output affiliated with Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
Harold Lancebury (bass-baritone) recently retired Music Master, Holt’s School.
All songs are set in Lancebury’s room at the Bellevue Hotel, Sidmouth between August and December 1947.
Additional text by the composer.
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word,
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light for revelation to the gentiles
And for glory to thy people Israel.
At my last evensong at Holt’s they trotted out a Nunc setting I wrote just before the Great War. Wrote it for the school choir just after I joined – I’d almost forgotten about it. Then someone, Gilbert I suspect, had some of the chaps from the choir learn it behind my back. Touching, I suppose, but I have retired, not died.
Feels like I have been dismissed.
Now, now, Pallas, old boy, none of that.
You’re over seventy and have had a jolly good innings at the school. Not to mention last month’s round of farewell dinners, speeches, concerts. A long and happy retirement to our dear old Music Master. Then off you trot to sunny Sidmouth, the late summer sun in your windows, seagulls in your ears and the aroma of Mrs Snellgrove’s rather fine poached dabs drifting up the stairs. All rather jolly.
Come, ye thankful people, come.
Raise the song of Harvest home
All is safely gathered in.
Ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide.
All our wants he hath supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come
Raise the song of Harvest home
“I say, are you Mr Lancebury, the Music Master?”
“Well, I was”
“I say, our organist has lumbago. Could you possibly play at All Saints for Harvest Festival?”
“Church of England?”
“Of course. I say, our curate was at Holt’s, George Hyde-Brown. Do you remember him?”
Of course I didn’t remember him. But he remembered dear old Pallas with his shining pate and lumbering size and his bonhomie. Happy days in the choir in the first form. And so on.
I played for the service. Pretty church, rotten organ. But rather gratifying to be of some use.
Old Needham used to call the fat matron’s corsets ‘Harvest Festivals’ because all was safely gathered in. Although I never much cared for jokes of this sort, nor any other kind of smut. I like to think that, even if I had married, I would have been gentlemanly towards my wife.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Dear Mrs Snellgrove, the cook here at the Bellevue Hotel, took a shine to me as soon as I arrived all those weeks ago. Must be the old tum, and the twinkle; she recognised me as a hearty trencherman. And quite right too, although not easy at the moment with post-war shortages.
Mrs Snellgrove said the other day, “You’re looking a bit peaky, Mr L, but I know how to put the roses back in your cheeks.” Then, like a conjuror, she produced a fine hare.
“Give me a few days to hang it and jug it, Mr L, and you shall have a feast!”
“Where did you get that?” I enquired.
“My husband, but least said soonest mended”, she replied with a stern wink.
“Oh ho”, thinks I, “’tis his delight on a shining night!”
And it was a feast; every succulent mouthful. Which I ate in solitary splendour.
No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
The gathering darkness in the afternoon is rather dispiriting, I must say. The lack of light rather puts one out of sorts. The coal is damp and smoky. I am starting to find my single gentleman’s pleasant room with sea view somewhat disagreeable. I should put my coat on and go out. But where would I go? And with whom?
We are not sure of sorrow,
And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man's lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure.
But surely, God’s love is eternal.
For a man who has spent so much time in Churches, I find it very hard to hear God.
I believe, oh yes I believe in organs, choirs, the Book of Common Prayer. God is a more difficult matter entirely.
It is December and it feels like more than just the year is ending.
The world outside is so grey; grey sky, grey sea, grey people.
The world inside, too.
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
The Selfish Giant
A Children’s Opera by Jim Coyle
After the short story by Oscar Wilde
A Selfish Giant lives alone in a house with a beautiful garden and will not allow the children to play there. Winter comes to the garden and does not leave until one day something truly wonderful happens…
The original short story by Oscar Wilde was part of The Happy Prince collection and may be read here. http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/SelGia.shtml
Composer Jim Coyle loved the story as a boy and has now set it as a one act opera for performance by a single professional singer and as many primary school children as will fit on the stage.
How to Perform The Selfish Giant
The Giant - Bass-baritone
The Child - Treble
The Bird - Dancer
Chorus of children, birds, flowers and bricks.
Piano duet (two pianists on one piano - adults)
BAND (children) Parts are provided for the following instruments, although not all of them are necessary for a successful realisation:- Flute, 2 clarinets, 2 alto saxophones, tenor saxophone, 2 trumpets, trombone, euphonium, tuba.
ORFF PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE (children) At least: 2 metallophones, 4 xylophones, 1 bass metallophone or bass xylophone.
The entire opera takes place in the Giant's garden and lasts about one hour.
Notes on performance
This opera was composed for children in years 3-6 in a 2 stream primary school. Each class was assigned a specific role so their part could be rehearsed in class. Thus, the whole group was only required to rehearse together for the finale.
There are three groups called 'children'. Groups 1 and 2 are from younger classes. Group 3 have a more demanding part and are best allocated to Year Six children. The semi-choruses are drawn from group 3.
The Child may be played by a boy or a girl. A child of small stature is suitable, as this makes the Giant look bigger. The Child wears white in contrast to the colourful clothing of the other children.
The audience are invited to participate in this opera at various times by using their smartphones or other devices. A screen projects instructions to them from time to time, but it is better to have an MC before the start of the opera explaining what is required and rehearsing with the audience.
A flat rate of A$450 applies for e-hire of all scores and parts. The work is subject to Grand Rights royalties (not via APRA). For The Selfish Giant, this is 10% of the ACTUAL box office gross (ie what you take; not what you potentially could take).