Marc Yeats reflects on the very dear friendship he and his partner Mark Hewitt enjoyed with the composer as family, friends and colleagues mourn his passing.
It is the end of an era for us. The end of a very special time and relationship with a beautiful, talented, generous man and the place he lived.
Our dear friend, composer Gordon Crosse (1937-2021) died peacefully at home on the 21st November after a short illness. We knew this was coming but nothing quite prepared us for the moment when the inevitable happens. It was a sad day indeed.
I’m not going to write about Gordon’s achievements as a composer as in an obituary – that information is out there for anyone interested to discover it. Instead, I am going to offer a range of personal reflections about our relationship with Gordon over the past eleven years and how that touched all our lives in such positive, happy ways.
Gordon and I found each other somehow on Facebook. We corresponded briefly and got on so well that we arranged to meet in person. That first visit involved Gordon travelling from Suffolk to Somerset to visit Mark Hewitt and me at home. We had a lovely time and talked about music almost continually. The success of that first visit initiated a range of ‘pilgrimages’, as Gordon called them, to Suffolk where we would stay for a week or so at a time. These visits would follow a familiar pattern that revolved around endless talking – frequently about music, our work as composers, trials and tribulation, neglect, successes, ambitions and projects as well as everyday life and living. In addition to talking, there were frequent visits out to pubs and restaurants to eat – always Gordon’s treat – and when we were not doing that, Mark and I were out exploring the Suffolk countryside and particularly the coast near to where he lived. As such, beautiful and lonely parts of that east Suffolk coastline, from Minsmere, north to Benacre Broad and pivoting around Covehithe, became our special haunted landscapes.
Gordon was not a fit man so couldn’t come walking with us, but I would take photos and videos and share these with him to enjoy from his armchair, bringing the outside inside and acquainting him with places he could once visit freely on foot himself. Our walking trips were bookended by very long and leisurely breakfasts that inevitably rolled in lunch – much of our best talking took place at this time – then our trip out for a walk – then a return for a meal out in the evening and more talking. It was a comforting, engrossing and enlightening experience as Gordon had met, worked with and known many great twentieth century composers, musicians and orchestras. His anecdotes were always a rich source of information and entertainment.
Gordon loved to talk. He had little opportunity to talk music intensively outside of our visits, so these periods of being together were hugely important to him – and us – as a way to recharge creative batteries and discuss ideas and positions. Gordon loved to share his works in progress, usually in a less than ideal midi playback format, so we could offer comment on the work he had done. Gordon was very open in this way and happy to take suggestions and feedback about material and structure and would gladly change aspects of his compositions if he thought it appropriate. He was not a prideful man.
Apart from the company and banter, Mark helped Gordon a great deal to sort out his musical affairs. He undertook editorial and promotional work, created a website for Gordon and helped to keep performances and awareness of his music alive. Most recently, Mark worked with Gordon to create a Symphonic Study, a Portrait of Lear: The Court, Storm, ‘Crowned with Flowers’ and Epilogue, derived from the incidental music for Granada Television’s 1983 production of ‘King Lear’, starring Sir Laurence Olivier, that is published by Composers Edition.
For me, the whole Suffolk landscape/seascape and the man himself, rolled into one experience, a little like visiting a dusty grandfather in an old cottage who was surrounded by music and a landscape I loved, all captured in time that stood still. These trips to Suffolk became a huge inspiration to me, so much so that I wrote two string quartets in Gordon’s composing room on one visit (observation 4 and observation 5) and have written ensemble and orchestral work inspired by the local topography and erosion issues along the coast. I’ve also painted well in excess of fifty paintings based directly on my Suffolk experiences. The whole area – the whole experience – is part of my psyche and has been for years. Now, this experience is rendered as nostalgia, like a ghost in a landscape inhabited by ghosts. I find this somewhat overwhelming.
We loved Gordon very much and knew he loved us. Although we have lost the man and our physical connection with Suffolk (it can never be the same again), we have a huge photographic legacy of so many aspects of Gordon’s life and home, we have audio recordings of a number of unscripted, ‘off the cuff’ conversations, some videos, and all of Gordon’s music as well as our undocumented personal memories to enable us to still feel close to him. In that regard, listening to his music, feeling this embodiment of his thought and personality, is potent and affecting indeed.
Here is a link to a range of conversations with Gordon and photographs made in 2015 along with portrait photographs I took in 2019 marc-yeats.com/blog/category/gordon-crosse-in-conversation/
We miss him dearly.