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Sydney Bressey
MUSIC WHEN SOFT VOICES DIE for voice and piano
Bardic Edition BDE1148

Catalogue Number: BDE1148

ISMN: 9790502446673

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Sydney Herbert Bressey was a student at Morley College for Working Men and Women before the first World War. Gustav Holst was its inspiring Director of Music from 1907, and Sydney showed early promise, winning first prize at the South and West London Musical Festival Competition with a part-song, The Poet’s Song. In November 1914 the Morley Magazine reported that he had produced the best arrangement in the Harmony Competition with an Irish air, Avenging and bright. By then he was in the Army, training at St Albans, and he was soon on active service in France. Transferred to the Signal Company of the Royal Engineers, he organized part-singing to a hired piano by way of relaxation. In 1916 he was badly wounded, earning the Military Medal, and on being returned to England presented Holst with a setting of Music when soft voices die for male voice quartet "written" said Holst, "in his soldier’s pocket book in a dug out in the firing line". The surviving version published here is from the Lambeth Archives and is for voice and piano, probably in the handwriting of Dulcie Nutting, who was Holst’s librarian. She should have given the premiere on 27 January 1917, but was ill and another student soprano, Lilian Twiselton, deputized. "Bressey’s song caused a sensation", Holst told a friend afterwards, and it was repeated by Lilian on 9 June by popular demand. Sadly for Sydney, now a 2nd Lieutenant, his hopes for "the time when I shall be able to resume my studies seriously" were thwarted when he was sent back to the front and a German shell burst near him, killing him on Holst’s birthday, 21 September 1918.

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