The early life of Patrick Cairns Hughes

this page first published by John Wright, 10 December 2002
last updated 10 December

Patrick Cairns Hughes was born 19th October 1908. His father Herbert was an Irish/Ulster musician/songwriter who became editor of The Daily Telegraph and founded the Irish Folksong Society. Patrick's mother was artistic and he spent much of his childhood travelling with her as she moved on from one project to another, from one contry to another. As a young child Patrick saw Greek theatre performed in Sicily. At school he edited a short-lived Studio magazine and developed a love of Shakespeare. He became attracted to the musical stage as a young child after seeing performances of Purcell's Faery Queen and The Beggar's Opera, and his first musical composition may have been a setting to Who Is Sylvia?. In London the young Hughes saw the revue A to Z (Jack Buchanan) and in Florence saw Verdi's Falstaff and other operas.

In early 1923, aged 14, Patrick wrote his first opera Aucassin and Nicolette, While in Vienna he watched Wagner operas, which he disliked, and discovered Richard Strauss' music which he loved. He saw performances by Marie Gutheil-Schoder as Octavian (Rosenkavalier), Salome, Elektra, Carmen.

Seeking a musical profession Patrick was sent to Wickersdorf School but disliked the severe teutonic regime. Longing for elsewhere, Patrick wrote his Irish operetta Dierdre andother works (which were never performed) before returning to Vienna where he lived with a musical family and took lessons from composer Egon Wellesz.

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Egon Wellesz