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date: 22 September 2019

Carmichael, Mary Grantlocked

  • Nigel Burton

Extract

(b Birkenhead, 1851; d London, March 17, 1935). British composer. At the RAM she studied the piano with Walter Bache, Oscar Beringer and Fritz Hartvigson, and composition with Ebenezer Prout. She appeared as an accompanist at the Monday Popular Concerts (1884–5) but was more widely known as a composer of songs and piano pieces.

Carmichael may have been of Irish parentage: that would account for her many successful settings of Irish texts, in an Irish idiom, and her most ambitious work, the Mass in E♭ (1900), for male voices, was written in a fully Roman Catholic style. The former are charming: The Rose of Kenmare and The white blossom’s off the bog, from the Album of Six Songs (1890) to words by A.P. Graves, are similar to Stanford’s Irish settings, yet closer to genuine folksong. Moreover, they possess a haunting touch of individuality which is unmistakably Irish. The Mass, however, is another matter, even though Wier states that it was ‘her most successful work’. Like many composers with a light, felicitous touch, Carmichael is apt to become dull when attempting to be serious, though no-one can deny her knowledge of Mozart, Spohr and Cherubini, who all figure briefly. The Credo is the one movement free of banal prolixity; even so, one would give the whole of the Mass for a song like ...

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