Ernest John Moeran

(31/12/1884 - 01/12/1950)

Ernest John Moeran(31 December 1894-1 December 1950) was a composer for whom Moeran Road. Walkinstown is named after. Known as Jack to his friends, he was born on 31st December 1894 in Heston and Isleworth, Middlesex, England, and passed away on 1st December 1950, near Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland. A composer deeply rooted in both English and Irish influences, Moeran’s musical legacy reflects his diverse background.

Moeran’s musical journey began at the Royal College of Music, where he studied from 1913 to 1914 under Charles Villiers Stanford. Interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Norfolk Regiment as a motorcycle dispatch rider and was severely wounded in 1917. After the war, he returned to the Royal College of Music and continued his studies with John Ireland. Moeran’s interest in folk music grew, and he made arrangements of tunes collected in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The impact of folk music, coupled with his exposure to Irish folk melodies during his stationing in Co. Roscommon, Ireland, significantly influenced his compositions. Notable among his works are solo and choral songs, including settings of poems by William Shakespeare, Robert Herrick, A.E. Housman, and James Joyce. His larger compositions, such as the Symphony in G Minor, concerti for violin and cello, and chamber works, showcase meticulous craftsmanship despite limitations in emotional range.

Born to the Rev. Joseph William Wright and Ada Hester Moeran, the family moved to Bacton in Norfolk during Moeran’s childhood. At Uppingham School, he honed his skills as a pianist and violinist and began composing. In 1913, he enrolled at the Royal College of Music but enlisted in the military in 1914. Severely wounded in 1917, he was stationed in Co. Roscommon, where he encountered Irish folk music for the first time.

After the war, Moeran resumed his studies at the Royal College of Music and later studied composition with John Ireland. His compositions matured during this period, including a piano trio, the String Quartet in A minor, and a violin sonata. Traveling extensively with Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock), Moeran’s enthusiasm for Delius and Elizabethan music influenced his melodic style.

Moeran’s connection with Ireland deepened, and he found solace and inspiration in Kerry, particularly around Kenmare. In 1937, he completed his Symphony in G minor, a testament to his evolving style. The Violin Concerto (1941) reflects Irish influences prominently, with melodic inflections of Irish folk song and a sense of calm ease inspired by Kerry’s landscapes.

The composer’s personal life saw challenges, including his troubled marriage to cellist Peers Coetmore, treatment for alcoholism, and struggles with mental health. Despite these difficulties, he continued to produce notable works, such as the Cello Concerto (1945) and Cello Sonata (1947), showcasing a fully mature and personal style.

Ernest John Moeran’s life came to a tragic end on 1st December 1950, as he fell from the pier at Kenmare during a storm. His legacy lives on through his compositions, which capture the essence of his English and Irish roots. The works, ranging from symphonies to chamber pieces, continue to be celebrated for their craftsmanship and the enduring influence of folk traditions.

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Connection with area: Composer of whom Moeran road is named after.