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James Oswald’s Airs for the Seasons

Each of James Oswald's lovely airs for the flowers of spring, summer, autumn and winter has a distinct and recognizable style.


Photo: Aunt Owwee

Four seasons

The composer of the music entitled “Airs for the Seasons” is Scotland’s most famous 18th Century composer James Oswald, who was born in 1710 and died in 1769.  I listened to a recording of his 48 Floral Suites each representing a particular shrub or flower, played by the Broadside Band.

For the summer season, the plants Oswald selected were Veronica, Myrtle, Heliotrope and Poppy. In 1755 when he composed them, Oswald had moved from Scotland to London, so he probably saw these summer bloomers growing there.

He had a lucrative career as a teacher in London, and in 1742 he published his most popular work the “Caledonian Pocket Companion,” which includes tunes for the lyrics of Robert Burns. He was granted a Royal Licence to set up his own publishing shop and office to print his own compositions. He was the most prolific Scottish composer of his time and popularized many Lowland Scottish melodies. He loved to recycle traditional old tunes.

Each of his lovely airs for the flowers of spring, summer, autumn and winter has a distinct and recognizable style. In 1781 he was appointed Chamber Composer to the English King George the third.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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