Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
Review by David Freeman
Don Cusic, Winston Churchill’s Love of Music, Brackish Publishing, 2018, 115 pages, $26.95. ISBN 978–0999053713
This little book shows that if Churchill did not have an aptitude for music, he certainly took much enjoyment from it.
There can be no doubt that Churchill’s taste in music did not run to the classical. The symphony, opera, and ballet were not for him. But music comes in many varieties, and appreciation can only ever be subjective.
Churchill enjoyed the music hall ditties of his youth and could quote the words of his favorites to the end of his days. He also treasured the school songs unique to Harrow, which he attended during his teenage years.
As a soldier, Churchill appreciated both traditional marches and the songs developed by those who fought in the First World War. As a man steeped in Biblical verse, he also took inspiration from hymns. He never tired of Gilbert and Sullivan and was fond of the musical ditties of Noel Coward, including “Let’s Not Be Beastly to the Germans.”
Don Cusic’s accomplishment is to identify the individual songs that Churchill enjoyed most and introduce them during relevant events in Churchill’s life. Three songs, for example, are presented in connection with Churchill’s first wartime meeting with President Roosevelt in 1941, which concluded with a prayer service for which Churchill selected the music: “For Those in Peril on the Sea,” “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”
Cusic does more than simply name the songs, however. He provides the background to each piece and all the lyrics as well. The only thing missing here is the sheet music. Readers, nevertheless, can get a flavor of Churchill’s eclectic taste.