Composer Lyle Chan explains how he won the blessing of the 96-year-old whose first crush was Benjamin Britten.

Astute readers with an interest in classical music might have noted the passing last month of John Woolford, who as Wulff Scherchen was known for his early and intense friendship with the composer Benjamin Britten. Australians might additionally have observed that ‘John’ had married, had four children and emigrated to Australia, dying at the age of 96. Next week, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and tenor Andrew Goodwin will perform My Dear Benjamin, a new song cycle by Australian composer Lyle Chan, that sets Britten and Scherchen’s letters to music. The conductor will be Paul Kildea, a noted interpreter as well as a biographer of Britten.

The catalyst for the work was John Bridcut’s seminal Britten’s Children– a book outlining several of the composer’s friendships with young men and boys – which had sat on Chan’s bookshelf for a decade before he got around to reading it. “I was really struck by this story of Britten’s first romantic relationship,” Chan tells me. “And then I saw that at the time the book was written, Wulff Scherchen was still alive in Australia....

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