A Salute to British Adventurers
Sir Alexander MacKenzie, who celebrated his eightieth birthday in 1927, has ranged over many fields of experience and of composition. He had good musical forbears for his great-grandfather played in a Militia band, his grandfather was a violinist, and so was his father, who was leader of the Orchestra in an Edinburgh theatre. From ten to fifteen, he was studying music in Germany. Then, until he was eighteen, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music, to which he was to return as Principal thirty-three years later.
A period of work in Scotland was followed by ten years in Italy, and finally by thirty-six at the head of the Academy.
His works include half a dozen operas, a dozen oratorios and cantatas (among which The Rose of Sharon is probably the best known), a good many orchestral pieces, including incidental music to plays, besides songs and chamber music. Sir Alexander has recently published a book of reminiscences, 'A Musician's Narrative.'
The Britannia Overture was written as a celebratory piece when the Academy attained its seventieth birthday. It happened that the President was then the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the 'Sailor Prince,' and it was a happy idea of Mackenzie to build the Overture on a Hornpipe and to bring in Rule, Britannia!
The three heroes whom Howard Carr has commemorated in his Suite are O'Leary, V.C., Warneford, V.C., and Captain Oates.
Captain Oates was a member of Captain Scott's South Polar Expedition of 1912, which suffered great privations. At a time when the explorers were in sore difficulties, and when shortage of food made it extremely doubtful whether they could survive, Captain Scott thus writes in his journal of Captain Oates: 'He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning. It was blowing a blizzard. He said: "I am just going outside, and may be some time." He went out into the blizzard, and we have not seen him since. We knew poor Oates was walking to his death; but, though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man, and an English gentleman.'