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Patrick Sheldon Hadley was born on 5 March 1899 in Cambridge. His father, William Sheldon Hadley, was at that time a fellow of Pembroke College. His mother, Edith Jane, was the daughter of the Revd Robert Foster, chaplain to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin.
Patrick studied initially at St Ronan's Preparatory School at West Worthing[disambiguation needed] and then at Winchester College. However the First World War interrupted his education. He enlisted in the army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He managed to survive unscathed until the last weeks of the war, when he received an injury necessitating the below knee amputation of his right leg. This profoundly damaged his confidence and also caused him to perhaps drink more than was wise; he was in constant pain, for which alcohol provided some relief.
Patrick's elder brother Peyton Sheldon Hadley, a former pupil of Charterhouse School, who served in the infantry, was also wounded in the closing months of the War. He was invalided home to convalesce, but died of pneumonia that October. A memorial to Peyton is found in the Charterhouse School Chapel.
After the war Patrick went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where by now his father was Master. He was fortunate to study with both Charles Wood and the undervalued English composer Cyril Rootham. Hadley was awarded B.Mus. in 1922, and an MA in 1925. He then went to the Royal College of Music in London. Here he came under the influence of Ralph Vaughan Williams for composition and Adrian Boult and Malcolm Sargent for conducting. Eric Weatherall notes that Hadley's contemporaries at the RCM included Constant Lambert and Gordon Jacob. He won the Sullivan prize for composition: at that time the sum of 5/-.
He eventually became a member of the RCM staff in 1925 and taught composition. He became acquainted with Frederick Delius (see Eric Fenby's account in "Delius as I knew him"), E. J. Moeran, Sir Arnold Bax, William Walton, Alan Rawsthorne, and Herbert Howells.
During 1937-38 Hadley assisted his friend and former teacher Cyril Rootham (by then terminally ill) in completing his Second Symphony. Acting as amanuensis, Hadley and others took dictation and transcribed the entire sketch for the symphony and the orchestration of the first two movements. Hadley also completed the orchestration of the final movement after Rootham's death in March 1938.
In 1938 Hadley was elected to a Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge and appointed as a lecturer in the music faculty. Much of his time was spent in run of the mill administrative activities, but there was still time available for composition. Some of his greatest works were written during and after the war.
During the Second World War he deputised for Boris Ord as conductor and musical director of the Cambridge University Music Society. There he introduced a number of important works, including Delius' Appalachia and The Song of the High Hills. He was keen to promote a wide range of music, including the formation of a Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Much of his time was spent in making arrangements for the use of the "chaps" in the choir. Sadly, few of these have survived. We know them only from programme notes and hearsay. In 1946 he was elected to the Chair of Music at Cambridge University. He retained this post until his retirement in 1962. Some of the students taught by Hadley have gone on to make big names for themselves: Raymond Leppard, Sir David Lumsden, Patrick Gowers, Philip Ledger and Peter le Huray.
In 1962 Hadley retired to Heacham in Norfolk. He wished to pursue his interest in folk song collection. However, he latterly struggled with throat cancer and this caused many of his activities to be suspended. Patrick Hadley died on 17 December 1973 at King's Lynn. He was 74 years old.
Patrick Hadley was influenced by the music of Frederick Delius and also to a certain extent folk music. But there were other non-musical influences in his life too: Ireland and Norfolk gave him a profound sense of landscape and location. His output was limited. He found the business of composing quite exhausting. Most people think of Hadley as composer of one or two church anthems: I Sing of a Maiden and the mildly exotic My Beloved spake. The catalogue shows a wide variety of musical forms: from a symphonic ballad to incidental music for Twelfth Night. However, there are no cycles of symphonies, concertos, or string quartets. He maintained throughout his a career a sense of the lyrical. Not for him was the experimental music of the Second Vienna School. He had an exceptional understanding of how to set words to music. Much of his music is meditative and quite inward looking.
One of Hadley's undoubted masterpieces is his Symphonic Ballad: The Trees So High. This is a large-scale setting of the folk song of that name for baritone, chorus, and full orchestra. The work is in four movements and it is only in the last that Hadley deploys the chorus and soloist. It is in this movement that Hadley quotes the folk-song in its entirety.
The Hills was completed in 1944 and is perhaps the finest of Hadley’s cantatas, the other two being Fen and Flood and Connemara, both dating from the 1950s. The Hills has strong personal links with the composer’s life, dealing with the meeting, courtship, and marriage of his parents. The landscape described is Derbyshire and this is well reflected in the music. One is reminded, perhaps, of Delius's Mass of Life.
Perhaps the gentlest introduction to Hadley is his short orchestral work One Morning in Spring, which was composed to celebrate Ralph Vaughan Williams' seventieth birthday. It is a fine example of an English tone poem.
The early orchestral sketch Kinder Scout is still in manuscript and as yet unrecorded.
Although Hadley was best of friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams, he was not so drawn into the folk song revival. Still, much of his music has subtle folk characteristics.
Editions and recordings
- The trees so high David Wilson-Johnson (baritone), conducted Matthias Bamert. Chandos 1993
- The trees so high Conductor: Vernon Handley Thomas ALLEN (Baritone) Guildford Philharmonic Choir: New Philharmonia Orchestra LYRITA
Wetherell, Eric. "Paddy" : the life and music of Patrick Hadley. London: Thames, 1997.