Dr. Vicki Stroeher, a musicologist at Marshall University, presented her first book, “My Beloved Man,” to Marshall’s president, Dr. Jerome Gilbert, Wednesday, July 6.
The volume details the complete surviving correspondence between famous composer Benjamin Britten and his life partner and recital partner, tenor Peter Pears. The men, together from 1937 until Britten’s death in 1976, lived with an appearance of separation and communicated in secret to avoid persecution for their relationship.
“The complete correspondence has never been published, so this is a first,” Stroeher said. “Peter Pears kept all of the letters in a box, and one of his life’s goals was to publish these letters before he died and it didn’t happen.
“We’ve done this work for him.”
“I’ll enjoy reading this,” Gilbert told Stroeher. “Because of the format, I can easily pick it up and read it anytime.”
“That was the plan,” Stroeher laughed. “The plan was that you could pick it up and read for a little bit at a time.”
The work was a labor of love, Stroeher said, requiring 4 years and the same number of trips to the Britten-Pears Foundation in Aldeburgh, England, where the 365 letters between the couple are kept. Stroeher transcribed the book with the help of Nicholas Clark and Jude Brimmer of the foundation.
A book launch was held June 16 at The Red House, where Britten lived and worked for the last two decades of his life.
Stroeher said she developed an intense interest in Britten during her undergraduate years when her chorus sang his works. Since, she has presented on Britten in Nottingham at the 2012 North American British Music Studies Association Conference; at the “Literary Britten” conference at Girton College, Cambridge University in September 2011; and the “Britten in Context” conference at Liverpool Hope University in 2010. She was a co-organizer of “Benjamin Britten at 100: An American Centenary Celebration,” held on the campus of Illinois State University, October 25-27, 2013.
“My Beloved Man: The Letters of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears” can be purchased online at Amazon.com.