sundayA short visit to the London Library recently yielded a few more details about the elusive amateur song composer Wallace Southam. I still don’t have his dates, but trawling through books on his friend Lawrence Durrell reveals that he and his wife Anne were in Athens in the late 1930s, where they met Durrell and his wife Nancy. Southam was apparently an executive with Shell Oil at the time, but one reference maintains that he was working for the British Council, and helped Durrell gets some temporary work there. After Durrell’s daughter Penelope was born on June 4, 1940, the Southams opened up their house to Nancy and Larry for a few weeks while Nancy was recuperating. After that, there’s nothing in the Durrell literature until the late 1960s, when Southam re-emerges in London, this time helping Durrell put together a musical (both words and music by Durrell) called Ulysses Come Back.

That reference led to a few other threads. The most interesting was his apparent association with Bernard Stone, the poet, bookshop owner and publisher. Stone (1924-2005) ran the Turret Book Shop on Kensington Church Walk in London (where Durrell was a regular visitor), and Southam apparently set up his own recording company, Jupiter Records, in the same place. In February 1967 Durrell, then living in France, visited London to meet with Southam and Stone to discuss bringing out some of Southam’s settings of Durrell’s poetry. A year later, on February 15, 1968, a concert was held – Jupiter and Turret at the Wigmore Hall: New Jazz and Modern Poetry – featuring two settings of Durrell poems, Lesbos and In Arcadia, along with other songs by Erich Fried, George Rapp, John Tavener, George MacBeth and Patrick Gowers. Turret Records was also the issuer – in May 1969 – of Southam’s most substantial publication – Songs of a Sunday Composer, containing settings of Auden, Belloc, Donne, Housman, Yeats and others, as well as Durrell. It was issued in a limited edition of 300 copies.

There’s little else I can find other than a few additional publications. Play Songs, a score with percussion parts by the music educationalist Avril Dankworth (sister of John Dankworth) came out in 1967, published by Feldman. A Day to Remember is a children’s picture book by Bernard Stone with a carol by Southam (“The Christmas Message”) included at the end. It was published by the Four Winds Press in 1981. And finally, so far as I can see, was the 1986 publication of Poems for Clocks by the poet Edward Lucie-Smith (Southam had already set Lucie-Smith’s poem Silence in 1967), again published by Turret Books.

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