AS the project to erect a statue of the great composer Edward Elgar

gathers apace in Hereford, NIGEL HEINS reveals how a member of his own family once enlisted the musician in a cut-price deal.

IN 1882, Edward Elgar was a little-known 25 year-old musician whose great compositions were years and years away from creation.

His usual fee when engaged to play the violin was, in those days, two guineas (£2 10p), but one-time leading light in Queen Victoria's Chapel Royal, Nicholas Heins, managed to persuade him to take a cut.

Nicholas Heins, composer of church music and owner of several music shops, including one in Hereford, had become secretary of the ailing Hereford Choral Society two years previously and was in the early stages of leading them to a remarkable recovery.

In Hereford City Library, among the Pilley Collection, are letters written by Elgar to Heins.

From Lorretto Villa, Chestnut Walk, Worcester, on October 5, 1882, Elgar wrote:

"Dear Sir, I am sorry to hear the 'Choral' have not been financially successful; better luck next time I hope.

I will play for you in November, if disengaged, for £1 11s 6d for his concert only; will you kindly let me know date if this suits you.

I am, dear sir, faithfully yours,

Edward W Elgar

N. Heins Esq."

Heins was successful on that occasion, but his wheeling and dealing with Elgar met with failure the following year as can be seen by a letter the musician wrote, again from Lorretto Villa, on February 18, 1883. It read...

N Heins Esq.

Choral Society

Dear Sir, My terms have always been £2 2s 0d - I went for £1 11s 6d last concert to oblige you, but do not see my way to do the same again as the expenses are so much.

Will you kindly let me know if you require my services?

I am, dear sir, faithfully yours,

Edward W Elgar"

Nicholas Heins obviously agreed, for written across this letter is "Engaged £2 2s 0d".

Also in the Pilley Collection is a letter written to Heins by A J Caldicott, of Worcester, in which he recommends the engagement of Elgar as first violinist and his brother Frank as oboeist for a concert in Hereford.

Incidentally, organist at Nicholas Heins's funeral in 1910 was G R Sinclair, a great friend, who was organist for the Choral Society.

Variation 11 of Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations depicts Sinclair, organist of Hereford Cathedral, who throws a stick into the River Wye for his bulldog to retrieve.

It is brought back with a triumphant bark.