“I would like to have some information about the composer I. Burnell. Our chorus is going to sing his passiontide cantata, “For us men and for our salvation”, but we don’t know anything about his life.”
Even on the internet, information on I. Burnell was scarce. Through checking our databases, we discovered a score published in 1931 for Burnell’s Surely The Lord is In His Place, a choral piece specially written for the dedication of Bromsgrove School’s memorial chapel in the same year.
Through searching for Burnell and Bromsgrove School online, we found a page from the 1917 Bromsgrove directory on a cryptography site, The Crypto Barn. The page states that I Burnell was director of the Bromsgrove Musical Club at this time.
After contacting the webmaster for more information, we were sent the scan of another page from the directory, entitled the Bromsgrove Almanack. This page stated that I Burnell was a master at Bromsgrove School.
From here we turned our attentions to the archives of Bromsgrove School and the Bromsgrove Musical Club, latterly known as Bromsgrove Choral Society. The choral society unfortunately didn’t have any information dating back to this period as the original club disbanded before the war, with their current organisation forming in 1947.
The foundation department of Bromsgrove School did however hold records of a school master by the name of I Burnell.
Though only mentioned briefly in five pages from old copies of the Bromsgrovian Magazine, it appears that Burnell was president of the Bromsgrove Musical Society.
As president, Burnell organised and lead musical programmes, debates, readings of papers on orchestral and choral composition and lectured on the pressing musical issues of the time, including the lack of government support given to English opera. From the fifth and final source we also know that Burnell had a wife. These records from the Bromsgrove School archives date from 1916 to 1918.
This is unfortunately all the information we could gather on I. Burnell. Whilst it is far from a definitive biography of the composer, it has hopefully shed some light upon his career as a school master and musical academic.
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