This week June 9-15 is bike week here in Winnipeg. It is a week when Winnipeggers are encouraged to get out, have fun, and explore the city on two wheels. 

In honour of this marvellous initiative, we here at Classic 107 thought it would be fun to explore composers and their relationship with their bikes. A surprising number of composers kept fit and active on their bicycles whether it be biking to rehearsals, other commitments, or just simply for fun and exploring. 

Monday, June 10: Sir Edward Elgar-- Enigma Variations (1898-1899) 

Shortly after composing the Enigma Variations Edward Elgar learned how to ride a bicycle. After that, he could be seen biking around the Malvern Hills in England on his Royal Sunbeam bicycle, called Mr. Phoebus. Elgar enjoyed the countryside and would cover huge distances in a single day, sometimes up to 80 miles. 

Tuesday, June 11: Percy Grainger—Lincolnshire Posy (1937) 

ghjPercy Grainger

Percy Grainger was an avid cyclist. One of his favourite hobbies was to travel around and collect folk songs very often on his bicycle.  

In 1937 Grainger was commissioned by the American Band Masters Association to write a piece for Wind Ensemble. The resulting piece, Lincolnshire Posy, would become known as his masterpiece and consist of folk songs collected in Lincolnshire while on his bike. 

It was not all roses and sunshine for Grainger when it came to cycling. One summer while he was repairing his bike, he lost the tip of an index finger while trying to repair the chain. Grainger, who was a virtuoso pianist, found that the loss did not overly affect his piano playing. 

Wednesday, June 12: Ralph Vaughan Williams—Symphony no.8 (1953-1955) 

fghRalph Vaughan Williams

Another composer who loved collecting folk songs on his bicycle was Ralph Vaughan Williams. 

One example of the journey Vaughan Williams would take on his bike. In 1904 he took a leisurely bike ride around Salisbury. While on this ride he collected folk songs such as An Acre of Land, A Man Called Pardner, and The Wagonner amongst many others. 

In 1898 in a letter to a friend Vaughan Williams gave a list of ideal writing conditions; “good food, good drains, and shops where one can mend bicycles.” 

Thursday, June 13: Gustav Mahler-- Symphony no.2 Final Movement (1888-1894) 

hkj.yGustav Mahler

Mahler was a true nature lover, and one of the ways he would soak up nature and the mountains around Austria would be on his bicycle. He is quoted as saying, “I seem to be absolutely born for the cycle.”  

In 1901 he tried to ascend the Loiblpass just south of his summer home in Maiernigg. According to the story recounted by the violist and close friend of Mahler, Natalie Bauer-Lechner, he thought he was about to reach the summit when he realized he still had 1000 meters left to climb. At this point, he paid a boy to push his bike up the road while he took a shortcut, and almost killed himself trying to claw his way up a drainage gully.   

Friday, June 14: Gustav Holst—Beni Mora (1908-1910) 

yj,ykGustav Holst

Holst would cycle around London and take in the city, especially as he travelled between Morley College and St. Paul's Girls School where he worked as a music teacher. 

In 1906, suffering from depression, Holst’s doctor ordered him to take a long vacation in a warm climate and recuperate. Holst ended up travelling to Algeria where bought a bike and took a long bike trip thought the Sahara. One of the works that came out of this extended bike sojourn was his piece, Beni Mora

Tune in at 1 p.m. to hear this fantastic music written by composers who loved their bicycles.