No Coward Soul is Mine – Ina Boyle’s Legacy

Ina Boyle (2)

Ina Boyle is the subject of the next lecture in the ‘In Tune’ series, to be given by Dr Ita Beausang at the Trinity Long Room Hub at 6.00pm in Thursday 13 February. Dr Beausang, author of a forthcoming biography of Ina Boyle, takes the title of her lecture from a poem by Emily Brontë which was set by Boyle in a work for contralto and string orchestra. This piece was composed in 1953, and received its first (and only?) performance at the Wigmore Hall in London on 28 April 1960. The soloist was Janet Baker, then at the beginning of her acclaimed singing career. Boyle notes in her register of compositions that the vocal part was not returned to her after the performance – perhaps Dame Janet still has it!

The title of the lecture is apposite as Ina Boyle seems never to have been discouraged by lack of recognition. In her register she stoically records the fate of each of her compositions: works were repeatedly sent to conductors, performers and publishers for consideration, and usually returned unused. Her Violin Concerto (1933) is a case in point:


“Sept 9th 1933, sent it to Jelly d’Aranyi, whose secretary returned it unread, saying she had not time to look at it.

Sept 28th 1933. Sent it to Ornea Pernel, who refused it.

Oct 17th [1933] Sent it to International Festival selection committee (O.U.P. London). Unsuccessful.

Jan 1st 1934. Sent it to Mr. Boult at the B.B.C. It was tried at a rehearsal […] but the B.B.C. would not broadcast it.”

The BBC made amends in August 2010 when, at a BBC Invitation Concert at the Ulster Hall, Belfast, the concerto was finally given its first performance by Catherine Leonard and the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Montgomery.

The ‘In Tune’ exhibition provides several opportunities for Dublin audiences to hear some of Ina Boyle’s works. Her six-part motet ‘The Spacious Firmament’ (1954) was performed by the RIAM Chorale at the first concert in December, and her String Quartet in E minor will be included in the concert by the Callino Quartet in the Examination Hall on 13 March. And looking further ahead, the RTE National Symphony Orchestra plans to include Ina Boyle’s first symphony, ‘Glencree’ (1927), in its 2014-15 concert season.

In Tune, sponsored by KBC Bank, runs until 1 April 2014.The exhibition is also available online.  Full details of the accompanying lecture and concert series are available here.

Roy Stanley

Music Librarian