How is it that a lad from Bradford, the son of German immigrants, involved in the local industry of woollen mills, holds an unique place in the hearts of all who love romantic, colourful, emotional music, venerated as the producer of some of the most vivid musical pictures of the twentieth century?
Frederick’s parents were already moderately well-to-do when they arrived in the UK from Germany, though his father’s family was originally Dutch. Frederick, known as Fritz till his teenage years, was the second of four sons – they also had ten daughters!
He was given a comprehensive education at the long-established Bradford Grammar School, where his music teacher who rejoiced in the name Mr Haddock gave him his first lessons. Later Delius was to say these were the only times he ever learnt anything. His father determined to groom him for a career in his firm and much against his will, in spring 1884 the young Delius was sent to manage an orange plantation near Jacksonville on the Atlantic coast of Florida, where he dodged his managerial duties in favour of listening to Afro-American music.
With the sole use of a fine house with servants and guest rooms, Delius found Jacksonville’s strong musical ethos much more to his taste than orange-growing. On the water-front he heard the deck-hands singing as they worked and this sparked his introduction to spirituals.
Read more in March/April Words and Music Magazine!