Blink and you’ll miss it: Slaithwaite and the birthplace of violinist, Haydn Wood

photo (11)The plaque might be stuck on an uninspiring wall on a road leading out of a Colne Valley village, but don’t let that taint your view of the man it honours. 

According to this plaque I found on a trip to Slaithwaite, Haydn Wood was a ‘world famous’ violinist born in 1882 in the village’s old Lewisham Hotel on Station Road.

The hotel no longer stands but locals are not willing to forget the man who brought the UK the famous World War One song, The Roses of Picardy, in 1916.

Brought up in a musical family in the village before moving to the Isle of Man, Haydn received a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London when he was only 15.

Whilst studying the violin he met Enrique Fernandez Arbos and composition with Charles Villiers Stanford, two famous composers who were to act as influences in his professional life.

There he also met his future wife, Dorothy Court, a soprano vocalist who he later toured with on stage around the country for 13 years. hayden wood

During these years he composed over 200 ballads and began to achieve considerable success.

His best known work, The Roses of Picardy, was composed for his wife but becmae so popular that it was sung by soldiers when enlisting for the Front in France.

During wartime it sold  50,000 copies in sheet music form per month and, according to Andrea Axelrod, was used to help people overcome shell shock when the war ended.

By the end of his career, Haydn had an impressive portfolio of orchestral music to his name, including 15 suites, 9 rhapsodies, 8 overtures, 3 concertante pieces and nearly 50 other assorted works.

Prefering the light music style, he was responsible for the three-movement Fantasy-Concerto and the London Landmarks Suite, pieces which no doubt encouraged the BBC to hold a special concert dedicated to his music to mark his 70th birthday.

photo (12)He died in a nursing home in London just before his 77th birthday in 1959 and was commemorated with a music festival in his birthplace the following year.

This event has since spiralled into an annual competition called the Haydn Wood Festival, which invites young people from around the Colne Valley to be participants.

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