Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Monday, March 3, 2014

John Ireland

John Ireland (1879-1962) was an English composer, organist and teacher whose music is “easy on the ears,” in contrast to most of the arresting music written after the Edwardian era; Ireland’s feet remained firmly planted in the nineteenth century (with a few seconds and sixths thrown in for spice). Even so, he was a teacher of composition at the Royal College of Music in London, where his most famous pupil was Benjamin Britten. Ireland is known chiefly for his piano miniatures and songs influenced by nature, although his organ compositions, violin sonatas and piano concerto are a major part of his musical works still performed today. It was the premiere of his second violin sonata in 1918 that brought him overnight recognition as a composer. Portrait at left, circa 1922.

Even though he held important posts as a church organist and choirmaster, Ireland was troubled by his uneasy relationship with Anglo-Catholic beliefs and traditions. In 1936 he wrote, “I am a Pagan. A Pagan I was born and a Pagan I shall ever remain. That is the foundation of religion.”

Ireland was a severely closeted homosexual who was crippled by pressure to live a life of social normalcy. This strategy culminated in a brief, but disastrous and unconsummated marriage that led to his public humiliation. According to Byron Adams (Gay Histories and Cultures, Volume 2), Ireland’s personal life was one of “relentless gloom.” Although Ireland enjoyed passionate homoerotic attachments to male friends and his young choirboys, social pressures against such relationships led him deeper into depression and alcoholism. Because his sexual inclinations led to alienation, he did not mix in homosexual circles, and he never found a long-term or stable sexual partner.

Ireland virtually stopped composing after World War II and spent his last years suffering from illness, blindness and profound melancholy.

His music is uncomplicated and lands comfortably on the untrained ear. Give this a try:

Piano Concerto in E-flat (1930): First movement

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