F S Kelly, Elegy – In Memoriam Rupert Brooke

For string orchestra – Gallipoli and Alexandria, 1915
Edited by Richard Divall
Australian Music Series – MDA036
ISBN 978-0-9925673-5-4 / ISMN 979-0-9009655-5-4

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Australian F S Kelly’s brief life uniquely encompassed the highest levels in sport (he won gold for Britain as a rower at the 1908 Olympics) and music (as pianist, composer, conductor and patron). It ended with a hero’s death. Kelly was a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Naval Division’s Hood Battalion. He was twice at Gallipoli, where he was wounded, receiving the DSC for his bravery under fire.

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His newly forged friendship with the English poet Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) was to have a special effect on him. Kelly describes in his diaries his meeting Brooke, as they enlisted in 1914 in the Hood Battalion. On the sea voyage to the Dardanelles on the troopship H.M.T. Grantully Castle, Kelly spent some time with Brooke, and was deeply moved when the young poet died of an infection on 23 April 1915, only two days before the landings on what became Anzac Day. Kelly took part in the burial on the island of Skryos.

MDA036 pic1Devastated by this loss, Kelly wrote the Elegy – in memoriam Rupert Brooke; scored for solo violin, divided string orchestra and harp. He began to conceive the work on the day following Brooke’s death and proceeded to write it whilst recuperating from a wound in Alexandria, Egypt. Kelly in his final diary in late 1915 describes the work as suggesting the rustling of the leaves of the grove of olive trees that stand around Brooke’s lone grave on Skyros.

MDA036 pic2Kelly was killed during one of the last great battles of the Somme at Beucourt-sur-Ancre, on 13 November 1916 when he was shot in the head while taking a machinegun post.