Nicholas Temperley, NABMSA’s first elected President and landmark scholar of British music, passed away at his home in Urbana, Illinois, on April 8, 2020. Members and friends of NABMSA owe him an immeasurable debt, not only for his seminal research, but also for his engaged participation in conferences and his encouragement of our various endeavors. He believed strongly in the importance of mentoring younger scholars, and endowed a Nicholas Temperley Prize for the best student paper at NABMSA’s biennial conference. We awarded him Honorary Membership of the society in 2012.
I’ve written elsewhere about the breadth of his career and impact on Victorian music studies. As his colleague since 2005 at the University of Illinois, I benefited immensely from his wisdom and friendship, and I shall retain vivid memories of our many conversations about British music of all periods and its scholarship. Some of the longest discussions took place when we traveled together to NABMSA conferences. He told me repeatedly of his amazement that British music studies was thriving so strongly in both the USA and UK – clearly something that he had considered unthinkable during the early years of his pioneering career. So it was a joy and privilege to be able to organize, as part of the NABMSA conference at the University of Illinois in 2012, a concert of Anglo-American choral and orchestral music to mark his 80th birthday, and in honor of his prodigious contributions to our field and to the success of our society.
This webpage offers collective tributes to the man we will sorely miss but always remember.
Christina Bashford, President of NABMSA
Associate Professor of Musicology, University of Illinois
Nicholas Temperley — literally the Grandfather of British Music Studies in America — was a profoundly enormous presence whom I’ve known since my undergraduate days at the University of Illinois, 1992-1996. Particularly in those early years — when I worked at the special collections/recordings desk in the Music Library — I was always terrified I’d get one of Dr. Temperley’s stacks of almost-daily LP recording requests wrong or that I’d take too long finding them all! Somedays if he was notably in a hurry, but always with a wry smile, he’d say: “How about I help today? There’s quite a number of them.” And then he’d come through the door into special collections; he was faster than I was at finding LPs (naturally)!
During my doctoral studies he greeted my infrequent queries with amusement, sometimes telling me, self-deprecatingly, that just because he was British didn’t mean he knew tuppence about Britten. But then, he was Nicholas Temperley; of course he did, and naturally, he demurred. Even in his “England” subject entry in Grove, he acknowledges Britten straightaway. I mentioned that to him once while invariably asking something else; glancing over his glasses, he said, “oh yes, you saw that, did you?”
He was a professor I long admired from afar, and with whom, in the last 12 years I worked with quite closely on a number of occasions. I performed Loder and Wesley lecture-recitals for/with him around the US and for audiences who adored him in NABMSA. He’d slide copies of Victorian songs to me, “just because.” I got to enjoy a great deal of time at his home working on music, taking breaks for sandwich lunches lovingly prepared by his wife Mary. Rehearsals were lighthearted but focused; his insights always on-point; the colors he’d ask for he would patiently wait for time and again until I got it right. “Yes,” he would stop and point at me, smiling and looking above his glasses, “Yes. That’s the one.” I lovingly performed at the NABMSA 5th Biennial Conference celebration of his 80th birthday in 2012 at the Krannert Center singing, in part, in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music — and for who better than him, seated down in front in the Foellinger Great Hall. So, poignantly for me, it was beyond humbling and affirming to be awarded the 2014 Nicholas Temperley Prize for Excellence in a Dissertation for my 2011 Tippett-Britten-Pears dissertation at UIUC under Christina Bashford.
Nicholas would e-mail me CDs that he just thought I should have (as recently as last semester when the Loder opera Raymond and Agnes arrived at my ISU office); he’d recommend repertoire for recitals he just thought I should sing; he’d encourage the recording of CDs he just thought my voice was right for, especially Loder and Sullivan’s song cycle The Window…… it seemed that he possessed endless generosity. He always responded to e-mails generously and quickly; and he shared far more than one might expect. He made everyone with whom he spoke, I should imagine, feel like a valued scholar, and it always seemed that he wanted to cultivate that opportunity with care. Even as recently as last fall and this spring, he was engaged in active support of and e-mails with me about a current proposal for a song anthology about which he was very enthusiastic. He knew that would be my first such editorial experience; how I had hoped he would be there to mentor me through to its publication.
The word “great” is seldom used with all of the weight of its implication. But for Nicholas Temperley? It’s reflexive. He was a great man. A great scholar. Kindhearted. Thoughtful. Brilliant. My heart is — our hearts are — very heavy. Requiescat in pace, professor…….
Justin Vickers, Associate Professor of Voice, Illinois State University
I remember so vividly how Nicholas extended a welcoming hand to me when, being a historian by trade, I first went to an AMS meeting. His work extended far and wide. Bill Weber
Bill Weber, Professor of History Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
I decided to do my doctoral work in musicology at the University of Illinois partially in hopes of studying with Nicholas Temperley. Although he was a Professor Emeritus at that time and under no obligation to mentor me, he graciously led an independent study course at my request, got me involved with his Hymn Tune Index project, and served on my dissertation committee. This is to say nothing of countless other occasions when he provided advice and encouragement. He was always kind yet very honest, which is exactly what I needed. At one point he confided that he went to such lengths for me because he believed in my future. I simply cannot express how much this meant, nor adequately account for his continued influence in my career. Nobody acquainted with his writings needs to hear how colossally gifted he was as a scholar, but those of us who knew him personally know that he was much more even than that.
Ryan Ross, Associate Professor of Music, Mississippi State University
The first time I met Nicholas was fairly early in my dissertation research. I had gone to Champaign-Urbana to meet with Nicholas and Christina Bashford to talk about my dissertation project. After a productive chat with Christina, Nicholas and Mary invited me into their home. They served tea and cookies while we talked Victorian opera. As we were chatting about George Macfarren’s opera Don Quixote, I noticed that Nicholas kept pronouncing it “Quick-sot,” while I said “Kee-ho-tay.” Eventually I asked him about it and he explained the idiosyncratic British pronunciation that was especially prevalent in the 19th century. The whole exchange was so gracious: he never once called out my mispronunciation or made me feel ignorant. I left that meeting feeling energized and encouraged to dig even deeper into Victorian opera. Over the years I was privileged to have many more productive conversations and email exchanges with Nicholas. I can say that, without fail, every interaction I ever had with Nicholas was wonderful. I will miss his kindness and generosity.
Alison Mero, Managing Editor, Clemson University Press
As a direct descendant of the English Victorian composer William Sterndale Bennett, the name Nicholas Temperley has long been writ large on my mind with gratitude and respect. I first met Nicholas in 1960 when I was 21 years old as he came to visit my grandfather to carry out research on the composer.
When I inherited the large family music library in 1974, as a serious amateur musician and certainly not as a scholar, his persistence and gentle pressure never failed to direct my faltering steps and as I gained confidence we became good friends. On the occasions I sought his advice this was always graciously and promptly provided. He influenced my musical thinking and I regarded him as the doyen of British musical research.
The start of a reassessment in the 1980’s of Bennett’s contribution to British music is largely down to an initiative taken by Nicholas (and his friend the composer Geoffrey Bush). He rewrote the entry in Groves dictionary, edited selected works for Garland Publications, encouraged CD’s, wrote several articles in learned musical journals and for the bicentenary of Bennett’s birth in 2016 he contributed generously – all of which has borne fruit.
At a personal level he and his wife Mary visited my home at Longparish in Hampshire UK. I attended his 70th birthday in Cambridge and last saw him at a music conference in the UK. He will be greatly missed and I send my sincere condolences to his family.
Barry Sterndale-Bennett, Guildford, UK
Chapel Hill, NC, 1979: Nicholas was the first ‘outside’ authority I consulted when I formed my idea of a UNC doctoral dissertation on 19th-century English music journals. Having already indexed Musical Times for its Victorian oratorio references, assisting Howard E. Smither, I figured there was a lot more to be discovered about music in Britain from other English press sources, too, if only I could delve deeper into the nexus of music, periodicals, and 19th-century publishing. It would be slow and uncertain work, but Victorian specialists had already started on literary periodicals; the music ones were largely unexplored, except by Nicholas. I devoured his work and knew he had benefited from cross-disciplinary colleagues. He’d shown a viable research pathway and meaningful results for music in Britain, not to mention the ability to range widely beyond Victoriana and deeply into music itself. I needed this man on my side.
In fact, Temperley’s in-principle approval was more or less required by my UNC musicology advisers, who respected him greatly, admitting they themselves didn’t know much about the UK. Several expressed strong personal reservations about my choice of topic: England? the 19th century?? are you sure??? Surely France would be more interesting. Nicholas not only confirmed the novelty, feasibility and genuine interest of my choice; he supplied me with advice, a letter of introduction to Alec Hyatt King at the British Library, and ongoing scholarly encouragement for another 40 years. Quite simply, he set the academic standard from the start, generously asking helpful questions, answering my own queries or pointing me to new sources, inviting me to speak at Illinois, reading and commenting on article drafts, sharing tips, and generally being a supportive friend to my efforts. I owe him an immense debt of gratitude.
And after all this time, I remain astounded by Temperley’s productivity and the lasting value in his work, to which I regularly still turn. Working with his daughter Lucy in the London Grove office in the late 1980s and early 90s only increased my affection and respect for the whole transatlantic Temperley clan, and for Nicholas and Mary as parents. Without a shadow of a doubt, the widest possible Temperley influence will stand for a lot of us, and our colleagues and students, for generations to come.
Leanne Langley, Hon. Librarian, Royal Philharmonic Society
For those of us who began to work during the 1970s on British music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were very few scholars in whose footsteps we followed. Nicholas was assuredly foremost among them. Well do I remember journeying to Cambridge (as you had to in those days) to read his path-breaking PhD on Instrumental Music in England, 1800–1850, a subject that must have been regarded as perfectly eccentric in 1959. For me it was a revelation, demonstrating so precisely the themes that underlaid all of Nicholas’s subsequent research across many diverse genres: firstly, a belief that there was extremely worthwhile music to be found in what were then regarded as the byways of music history (and British music at that); and secondly, that you can only understand a nation’s culture by studying all the music that was experienced there, wherever its composer happened to have been born. With his modest and unassuming manner, Nicholas never trumpeted his role in either regard; but through his publications and editions (for performance never came far behind) he was a passionate and persuasive advocate, inspiring not only my own generation but also many who followed. We are all greatly indebted to him for leading us along this path and for the confidence he gave us in areas of research that might have seemed peripheral at the time but are now mainstream. Personally, I am enormously grateful to Nicholas for his personal guidance and encouragement over many decades and will greatly miss that slightly quizzical look and dry humour that he brought to discussion of music about which he felt so deeply.
Simon McVeigh, Professor of Music, Goldsmiths, University of London
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nicholas Temperley, whose work I’ve admired, cited regularly, and recommended to scholars in British History and Literary Studies as well as Music since I entered graduate school decades ago. What stands out in memory even more than his astonishing versatility and mastery of such a wide range of material is his generosity of spirit and the enthusiasm with which he approached his work and questions brought to him by other scholars. Not long ago, I was puzzled by an unfamiliar setting of an English psalm from a manuscript from around 1600. I knew that if I shared it with Nicholas he would point me in the right direction. It seems typical of him that he did so much more than that, suggesting how it varied a more familiar tune, what its possible history might be, and transcribing its four parts into modern score format; he was, if anything, more delighted by, and curious about, the piece than I was. In retrospect, that combination of graciousness, inquisitiveness, and sheer virtuosity of knowledge, which I saw in his writing, his oral presentations, and interactions with colleagues, is what I will always remember about him.
Linda Austern, Associate Professor of Musicology, Northwestern University
As Chair of the Musica Britannica Editorial Committee, I’d like to pass on our condolences on behalf of the Committee: it goes without saying that Nicholas was one of the most outstanding scholars of British music we have known, but he also co-edited two landmark volumes for MB – vol. 43: English Songs, 1800–1860 (1979) and vol. 85: Eighteenth-Century Psalmody (2007) – both of which played in important role in bringing little-known but important British repertory into the public domain for the first time. Our previous Chair, Julian Rushton, remembers Nicholas’s delight and surprise when his proposal for the latter volume of West Gallery music was accepted by the committee: he clearly regarded this as a sign of MB turning away from its original brief (as outlined in 1951 by Anthony Lewis) to publish ‘an authoritative edition of [the]… classics of English [sic] music’ by recognizing that music is not all high-art ‘classics’ – a view he of course advocated powerfully throughout his career. He is very fondly remembered here, as well as by our publishers Stainer & Bell, not only for his distinguished editing, but also for the warmth, support and inspiration he offered to scholars of British music, and as a critical admirer and friend of the edition. No doubt he will be immensely missed within NABMSA.
Rebecca Herissone, Chair of the Musica Britannica Editorial Committee, Professor of Music, The University of Manchester
Although not much younger than him, I met Nicholas when I was a mere undergraduate and he a lecturer in the Faculty of Music, Cambridge University. The session was 1962–3, when we were required in our finals year to answer questions in 3-hour papers on European music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with set works including Götterdämmerung (and so, in effect, the whole of Der Ring). Nicholas perceived that there was no point in doing an outline lecture course on so vast a repertoire. Instead he decided to abandon the usual lecturing de haut en bas. For the first time in my experience we were consulted, and allowed to choose topics we thought we could cover and deliver in presentations to the class. So, unlike with lectures, attendance at which was voluntary, we all turned up every week!
I talked about Berlioz. Hugh Macdonald joined us; already researching Berlioz, he soon became General Editor of the new complete edition, and invited Nicholas to edit Symphonie fantastique, no less (NBE16, 1972). Nicholas also published a fine article that reviews Berlioz’s intentions with respect to the symphony’s programme, challenging received opinion. I don’t suppose my presentation (on the operas) was responsible for sparking his interest in Berlioz, but I mention this to remind members that Nicholas’s research ranged more widely than the admittedly enormous field encompassed by NABSMA (‘the B is silent’, he told me). Around 1990 I had close dealings with him as General Editor of the series Cambridge Music Handbooks; the first to appear, his 1991 study of Haydn’s The Creation, convincingly explains the English roots of this masterpiece and remains the best guide to its genesis and structure that I know.
As chair of the Editorial Committee of Musica Britannica, I was partly responsible for accepting a volume of music from the English provinces (MB85: Eighteenth-Century Psalmody, which he edited with Sally Drage). Nicholas told me frankly that he had expected us to reject it, as the music isn’t what was usually understood as high art … happily, MB is no longer as hidebound as when it set out c.1950 to publish only ‘classics’! Nicholas also edited with Geoffrey Bush a fine volume of English Songs 1800–1840 (MB43), and it was with real regret that financial restrictions prevented us from accepting his proposal to publish the full score of Loder’s Raymond and Agnes (of which he had already published a vocal score in connection with a stage performance in Cambridge).
It was a pleasure and a privilege to contribute to Nicholas’s Festschrift and to remain in touch with him more recently; only last year we were discussing an edited volume to which, alas, his contribution will not be forthcoming. With characteristic helpfulness, he withdrew in good time, as he realized he wouldn’t be able to do the necessary library research. I need hardly remind members of NABMSA of the debt we all owe Nicholas for his work which, to adapt a mot of Sir John Falstaff, is not only inspiring in itself, but engenders inspiration in those that follow.
Julian Rushton, Professor Emeritus, University of Leeds
Though I knew Nicholas personally only for a relatively short time and from a third of the way across the country, I was fortunate in that our paths intersected on a number of occasions, sometimes “live,” sometimes via cyberspace. I first met Nicholas at the 2006 NABMSA meeting in Vermont. I was new to NABMSA at the time, and Nicholas’s warm and gracious welcome made me feel right at home. NABMSA could not have had a better “front man” (he was the president at the time). We then met again at two subsequent NABMSA meetings: Toronto (2008) and Syracuse (2016); and each get-together confirmed my initial impression: Nicholas was a gentleman through and through.
My other “meetings” were carried on via lengthy and lively email exchanges. The first of these concerned a research problem that I was having in connection with Victorian hymnody. I emailed Nicholas with a question, and I had an answer in an hour or so. Another question – another answer, and on we went for a while as one thing led to another. He was fantastic. More recently our exchanges concerned Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes, for the recording of which (Retrospect Opera, 2016) Nicholas was THE driving force. We had some wonderful conversations about both Raymond and the question of reviving forgotten works in general. For the record: his assessment of the opera hit the critical nail on the head.
In all, I was fortunate to have known Nicholas, even if for only a short time and intermittently even then. He was a mentsh!
Allan Atlas, Professor Emeritus, CUNY Graduate Center
I knew Nicholas for about forty years, and I have always considered him to be the ‘father’ of research into British music. He was always a trusted mentor, but, above all, it was his enormous, authoritative knowledge of the subject which I found so awe-inspiring. His PhD on Instrumental Music in England, 1800-1850, which he submitted at Cambridge in 1959, was a highly important gesture in terms of research topic, since, at that time, such a topic was not only unfashionable but, in some quarters, elicited nothing short of derision. Indeed, Nicholas was a single-minded standard-bearer for at least two decades while the derision continued unabated, and he often must have sensed a scholarly ‘loneliness’ as he produced his scholarly papers on nineteenth-century British musical topics. A powerful symbol of his belief in the music was the revival and critical acclaim of Loder’s Raymond and Agnes at the Cambridge Art Theatre in 1966. To this he added his masterly The Music of the English Parish Church in 1979 which was ground-breaking for no-one had brought such scholarly discipline and technical understanding to a subject area neglected for so long. More to the point, it highlighted Nicholas’s scholarly abilities not just in the nineteenth century, in which he was a pioneering influence (to which I can personally attest), but in several centuries before that. This is amply demonstrated by his work on The Whole Book of Psalms (1562),Handel, Haydn’s Creation, the London ‘Piano School’, and especially The Hymn Tune Index: A Census of English-Language Hymn Tunes in Printed Sources from 1535 to 1820. Nicholas’s methodological approach to musicology was always wide. He embraced the historical, social and analytical dimensions of the discipline with unprejudiced aplomb. I was aware, however, that his principal concern was the music itself and the importance and primacy of the score. This, at least to me, is affirmed by an examination of his writings, the centrality of his carefully chosen music examples, his keen, critical eye on matters such as form, style and musical language, the manner of his beautifully clear written English, and the way he brought this acumen to such a variety of articles and books, regardless as to whether it was aimed at a symphony, a piano concerto or a psalm tune. He will be sorely missed.
Jeremy Dibble, Professor of Music, Durham University
I started graduate school at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in the fall of 1989. This was in the English program, although I had music background, too, so when, that September, combing through the Graduate Library, I landed upon a copy of the Autumn 1986 issue of Victorian Studies devoted to music of the Victorian era, and edited by Nicholas Temperley, I was intrigued. I devoured the issue, then realized that its editor was Professor of Music at my university. It took me a full year to get up my nerve to introduce myself and my interest in taking my dissertation into music-literature studies. When I did, Professor Temperley (which I never have stopped calling him, though he corrected me all the time: “it is just Nicholas!”) could not have been kinder. His nineteenth-century music course was a highlight for me and, on a personal level, introduced me to Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations whose haunting “Nimrod” movement my father walked me down the aisle to at my wedding seven years later. I am very close to my father, an amateur music-lover, but I also considered Prof. Temperley to be a second father, in all senses of the word.
Prof. Temperley mentored my professional life in many ways, introducing me to MVSA (Midwest Victorian Studies Association; I actually rode with him and Prof. Arnstein to the 1992 South Bend conference, never realizing I was riding with two fore-fathers of the organization!). He accompanied me on piano when they invited me to sing songs found in the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell for evening entertainment at the 1993 conference in Chicago. I soon realized that MVSA had him to thank not only for its inauguration but for its interdisciplinary nature, the rich tradition of music concerts—like Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius that he had staged at UIUC for the 2007 MVSA conference. I had a very supportive English dissertation committee, but certainly it was Prof. Temperley who urged my research and integration of close explications of the ballads, hymns, operas, and folk-songs found in the novels of Gaskell, Eliot, and Hardy I studied, at a time when music-literature studies was still more focused on the literary. Even as I started my second monograph ten years later—getting even closer to his field of hymnody in researching children’s hymnbooks of the Victorian era—he advised me: don’t forget about the tunes; save space for analyzing the music! It turns out that he was reviewer for the press (Ashgate) which accepted the study for publication in 2016; in fact, both my monographs have been blessed with Nicholas Temperley’s quotes of praise of their jacket-covers.
I have also been honored to be supported by Prof. Temperley in personal ways. In 1999, on my first trip to the UK, he and Mary invited my family and me to their flat in London. In 2009, when I hosted MVSA in Richmond, Indiana, he came early and stayed late to see my town, meet my colleagues, and see my family. In 2014, while on sabbatical for my book-project, I came to visit for scholarly inspiration and spent a marvelous evening with Prof. Temperley at the piano, and Mary and I sight-reading Victorian songs. My husband, daughter, and I have visited their home on Indiana Avenue numerous times over the years, the last time being in June 2019: he had just had a mini-stroke and was unable to serve the lunch he was planning but I am grateful that we could see him briefly as we travelled through town. And seeing him at conferences was like greeting a family member, enjoying meals and strolls through town as we hustled from event to event.
When I realize the amazing contribution that Nicholas Temperley has made to the field of music, his Hymn-Tune Index chronicling thousands of hymns that would otherwise be forgotten, in an electronic format before this was even popular; his Music of the English Parish Church setting the standard for first-hand, archival research of music records and systematic music-history; his last publication, The Whole Book of Psalms Collected into English Metre by Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and Others, a critical edition sorely needed by the academic world, I know what a lasting contribution he has made on the field of music studies. I saw his productivity kick into high gear after his retirement in 1996, at a time when others slow down, so anxious was he to get out new editions of religious works, collected works of his own research, keynotes, and other ways of disseminating his immense knowledge while he could.
The last time we spoke, when I went to visit him in September 2019, he told me, amidst rising concern for climate change, that he really felt he had lived during a golden age. I think many of us living in the late twentieth century will look back and feel that way, but I also realize what a golden age HE gave us, of scholarship and scholarly comradery. To meet him at a conference, one would not ever know his greatness, so modest and unassuming was he, cordially greeting junior and senior scholars with equal interest and affability. And when I reflect on the fact that little-old me, at age 23, was able to acquire one of the foremost critics of Victorian music to serve on my dissertation committee, then maintain his friendship for over 30 years, I catch my breath.
I, we, have all lost a dear friend, a father-figure, a scholar who has given us immeasurable scholarship on hymnody, opera, choral music, and religious works of the rich English tradition. I know he knows how much he meant to us: the honorary concert for his 80th birthday that Christina Bashford organized for the 2012 NABMSA conference in Urbana; honored as Fellow of the Hymn Society in 2015; NABMSA’s keynote in Syracuse in 2016; and MVSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. But he also gave us his kindness and personal support, in his serious English way, that was much harder to thank, and will be much harder to ever duplicate.
Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, Professor of English, Indiana University East
Nicholas Temperley with conductor Richard Bonynge
Professor Temperley’s support of the British recording company Retrospect Opera was a valuable driving force in realising several of our projects. It is testament to his belief in the value of British music that, in our mission to record and thereby promote the best of historical British opera, he was an important advisor who shared the benefit of a lifetime’s scholarly expertise in writing for us, in sleeve notes and for our website. Additionally, he was a substantial benefactor, and it was a particular pleasure for us when he was able to come to London to attend the recording of a project especially close to his heart, Edward Loder’s grand opera Raymond and Agnes. It was a work he had championed for over 50 years, and he had never expected to see it recorded in his lifetime. We were all enormously proud that we were able to make a reality of his vision. Our forthcoming recording of G. A. Macfarren’s The Soldier’s Legacy is dedicated to his memory.
Valerie Langfield, Retrospect Opera
I first met Nicholas Temperley in the mid–1980s. He was the pre-eminent musicologist for British music in the US. I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati College– Conservatory of Music formulating a dissertation topic to deal with some aspect of the piano and nineteenth-century music in London. Nicholas kindly agreed to meet with me at Urbana–Champaign to discuss ideas and sources. He provided introductions to individuals in England and made his dissertation on ‘Instrumental Music in England, 1800–1850’ available to me. He continued to be a generous source of help in the years since then.
When Susan Wollenberg and I were editing The Piano in Nineteenth-Century British Culture, Nicholas contributed a valued forward to the subject. Working with him when I wrote the chapter on Kate Loder for his volume on Edward Loder and his family was an experience of collegial scholarship at its best. Nicholas answered questions promptly, offered helpful advice but respected the author’s viewpoint. Nicholas was always approachable at music conferences where I looked forward to interesting and helpful conversations with him. I appreciated his forthright responses, which were the more valued for that. During the NABSMA Conference at UIUC in 2012 an administrator at UI paid tribute to Nicholas. He described the file of letters he had from Nicholas over the years that demonstrated the high standard and respectful discourse Nicholas maintained throughout his tenure. I recall thinking ‘no surprise there, exactly what I would have expected’.
I am proud and grateful to have known Nicholas Temperley.
Therese Ellsworth, Independent Scholar, Washington, DC
It must have been in the late spring of 1971 that I first met Nicholas, when, unannounced, he knocked gingerly on the door of A1, my suite of rooms as undergraduate organ scholar in Old Court, Clare College, Cambridge. He was over from the USA for the summer and wanted to see the new chapel organ, for he had convened the committee responsible for its commission and only now, seven years later, could he witness the fruits of his far-sighted guidance, guidance which resulted in the first organ in Britain representative of the classical north German school and still today the only von Beckerath instrument in the country apart from a tiny one in Nottingham. That meeting now strikes me as characteristic in several respects. If I remember rightly, I was playing over the second and lesser-known Mendelssohn piano trio, the C minor, at the moment of his knock, and Nicholas, immediately recognising it, commented on how gratifying it was to hear it if you could stomach the chorale in the last movement. I’m not sure which of us was the more surprised at finding this musical artefact in common. And he didn’t want to play the organ, only to see and hear it, the former involving awkward contortions for a person so tall and physically unassertive and some apologising to the case for bumping into corners of it as we snaked our way towards the very tight console. Nicholas’s name was not unknown to me, for the reputation of his production of Raymond and Agnes five years earlier and a whole row of its photocopied scores still on the shelves of the Clare library had gone before him.
We evidently hit it off, for within four years he had signed me up for two chapters in his Athlone (later Blackwell) History volume. I was hugely encouraged by this surely unwarranted act of faith, and only too happy to trudge back to Cambridge, days before leaving for a year’s scholarship in the USA, to read his PhD thesis in the university library. How it opened my eyes! So did his regular memos as editor, mailed to my shared waterfront house in Revere Beach, MA, suggesting this and that that I might like to look at as I worked on my chapters. Unremitting diligence, instilling a sense of corporate responsibility, was utterly typical of the man and scholar, and decades later, when we edited Music and the Wesleys together, I came to dread opening up the computer because I knew he would be at the other end of it with a new email to help keep the show on the road and press steadily forward towards the finished product. Few could match his work ethic, I am sure, and I should have learnt from him how not to procrastinate, though alas I never did. Nor I think did I ever quite fulfil my brief in the Athlone History. In one of the chapters I was trying—at the time I thought very originally—to explain why England had failed to produce any great composers through most of the 19th century. He pressed me very hard indeed on my reasoning, and however much I tried to justify or strengthen it I don’t think I ever quite convinced him. Perhaps in the end I didn’t quite convince myself.
But the utterly unassuming warm friend was just as typical of Nicholas as the hard scholarly taskmaster, and this I think is the quality I shall miss most. Unforgettable was the first of four visits over the years to his house on West Indiana Avenue, Urbana, just after Christmas 1975, when he picked me up from the Greyhound bus station, stepping uncertainly over the ice in the car park. The guest room was enchanting, Mary was enchanting, and the scarlet cardinal on the bird table in deep snow beyond the breakfast window the following morning was enchanting, the first I had ever seen. I forget details of the second visit, in 1984, but the third, in 1989, entailed a 31-foot RV parked in his drive overnight and a concert of my six-person early music group in his music room; never had we such a perfect host or a more suitable venue on our reckless coast-to-coast tour that September, though I never found out how the neighbours reacted to the monstrosity in the driveway, and Nicholas was far too polite to comment on our performances’ myriad imperfections and limitations. The fourth and final visit was only 18 months ago, and it meant a huge amount to me that my partner Oscar was able to come too and at last meet Nicholas, than whom I have had no greater role model. We talked and drank at our ease and he told us something about his family history, which included some unexpected elements.
There are so many more things I would have liked to ask him, however. What had made him regard himself as a rebel (for he did)? What in the end did he feel about the country and the establishment he had left after Eton and Cambridge had groomed him as one of their own? Why was the friendship with Bruno Nettl, which he told me was what had made him turn to studying music ethnographically, so important?—for if this was what lit the spark for The Music of the English Parish Church, why was the tinder already so flammable? Others may be able to answer these questions. Why he chose the subjects he did for his massive, exhaustive projects—19th-century English music, psalmody and hymnody, the Georgian piano repertoire—may be another. What is not in question is Nicholas’s extraordinary achievement with all of them. I would put that down to four old-fashioned scholarly virtues: command of the sources, whatever that takes; love of the music and technical expertise in the handling of it; willingness to raise the most basic (and hence far-reaching) questions; and perfect prose, which he once told me he learnt from his Maths master at Eton. We may not see his like again.
Stephen Banfield, Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Bristol