Beth Tree and the Elgars 7
It wasn't long before The Variations on a Theme that Mr. Elgar wrote with the codes to say who the dedications were for became generally known as the Enigma Variations, and Mr. Elgar was happy with that title. There was also the question of what the main theme of the piece was based on. Mr. Elgar wouldn't give it away, and said he thought that we students should be able to work it out. We all had guesses, such as God Save the King, Auld Lang Sine, and various hymns and nursery tunes like Pop Goes the Weasel..
The piece of his I admire most was composed about this time, at the turn of the century. It was the time of the death of Queen Victoria and the coronation of Edward VII. All composers try to make music that coincides with a new coronation, and Mrs. Elgar told me that the new King asked Edward to do a piece.
He once said to a friend, “I’ve got a tune that’ll knock ‘em flat!” and this music became his famous ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ which was just as the title suggested. My brother Charlie pointed out that Edward’s compositions are all different and that listeners are
carried along by sheer exuberance.
Mr. Elgar first composed what he called the Coronation Ode . However due to the King's illness, his coronation was postponed, and Mr. Elgar added to the original and changed it to the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. It was first sung by Madame Clara Butt in June 1902. The title Pomp and Circumstance — comes from a line in Shakespeare's Othello ("Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!") — in 1901. Now it is generally used as the march for graduations but it wasn't originally intended for that It first became associated with graduations in 1905, when it was played when Dr. Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University but it was played as a recessional, not as a processional, at the ceremony.
"After Yale used the tune, Princeton used it, the University of Chicago and Columbia. Then eventually everybody started using it. It just became the thing that you had to graduate to."
The King suggested words to fit the tune. So words, which came from a poem written by Arthur Christopher Benson, were added. Mr. Elgar told me he didn't like the words. Some extra notes had to be added to fit in with some of the words.
Only the first of the seven stanzas of the Ode's final section was used but it was the part that people could relate to. Here are the words:
Land of Hope and Glory,
Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty,
Make thee mightier yet.
On occasion my sisters and I would come across Mr. Elgar when he was biking through the hills – often with Miss Rosa Burley, the headmistress of The Manor Finishing School. That was where the Elgars' daughter Carice boarded when they were away. But other girls
from the school sometimes were with them too. He rode a brand new Royal Sunbeam bicycle, which he called Mr Phoebus. However he admitted he was for fair weather cycling only so when it rained on the Malvern hills, he would often turn back and head for home.
The Elgars spent time in London, and other cities where Mr. Edward's music was now being appreciated. In fact, he suddenly was considered to be England's greatest composer. When he played with an orchestra in Worcester, we would always go.
By this time, I was in high school, and although Mr. Elgar didn't teach music lessons there anymore, he did still come by occasionally and arranged several concerts. My sisters Margaret and Janet and I were in one of those in 1902. Others in the orchestra were Miss Hyde, Miss James , Miss Kerr, Miss Rachel Wigram, Miss Caldwell, Miss Esp, Miss Bums, Miss McCann ,Miss Bidham and Mr F. Hadley. Our music teacher Mr Quarterman was the conductor.
When he was back in our area for a period of time, Mrs. Elgar would contact me to say that Mr. Elgar would be pleased if I wished to have another lesson or two. So I was very pleased to take advantage of these occasions. I did get lessons from Mr. Quarterman too.
When Mr. Elgar was away, and he had published another song that he thought I might enjoy, he would send a copy of it to me. I would try each out on violin and piano so that when he was home, I was familiar with the music that he wanted me to play.
With sending some new pieces, he wrote to me once, “I fear they are dry and perhaps too difficult for you just yet but you will see. I have written a lot of things since I last saw you and do more writing than playing now. Now, my very dear girl, you must go on working very hard – it is really your best time for getting over the drudgery and when you devote yourself entirely to Music you will be so glad. I trust you keep your other studies well in front: the days when musicians need not be educated are over now: Schubert was about the last of that school: the art is now in a higher position than ever and it is the duty of every musician to raise it as high as he or she can.”
Another time after I told him of the comments I had had after a concert, he wrote, “You must guard against getting inflated notions from the praise and try to remember the necessity of broad noble style in place of mere prettiness of playing and trickery and that a high ideal is necessary for a great musician."
My mother did take music lessons as she had promised she would do and on 26 December 1896, Juliana Tree was granted by the Incorporated Society of Musicians a preliminary grade (with honours) on the Pianoforte and by 16th December 1899, this was upgraded to
But we were not all musicians in our family. On the 26th of January, 1900, my sister Margaret got a pass mark in literature from the Cambridge examination board. She also was involved in an exhibition of her art work which was displayed at the Victoria Institute, along with other students from the high school.
In 1901 I received the Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board. —Higher certificate. On 2nd August, 1902, I was given a grade four (intermediate) certificate on the Pianoforte. I was also incorporated into the Society of Musicians.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians is the UK's professional body for musicians, an independent non profit-making organisation which was set up in 1882 to promote the
importance of music and protect the rights of those working within music.
On the 5th December 1902, Margaret won Mrs Maben Reed's science prize at our Worcester High School for Girls and Elizabeth Juliana Tree (that's me) was awarded the higher certificate by the Oxford and Cambridge joint board.
On December 27, 1902, when I was 16, I received Licentiate (LmusTCL) which is equivalent in standard to the final year of a music degree from Trinity College London.