Today I Learned…

Today I learned that Edward Elgar, the composer, once held a job at a lunatic asylum.

At age 22, in 1879, Elgar (who is probably best known for his work “Pomp and Circumstance”) took the post of conductor of the attendants’ band at the Worcester County Lunatic Asylum in Powick, also known as Powick Hospital. The doctors at the asylum had started up orchestral concerts in the 1870s, as well as Friday night dances for the inmates. Elgar played violin in the band starting in 1877, then took over as Band Instructor in January 1879.

Elgar enjoyed his work with his “eccentric orchestra”. He composed the Powick Asylum Music for the band to play. He got around 30 pounds a year for doing the job — which was 4 pounds less than his predecessor got for the same job, mostly because of Elgar’s inexperience. He made a bit of extra scratch by publishing the music, though.

Here’s another fun fact for today: It was at Powick Hospital, in 1952, that Dr. Ronald Sandison started pioneering British work in the psychiatric use of LSD. It was used for treating severe depression and schizophrenia. Dr. Sandison called it “Psycholytic Therapy” (literally, “mind loosening therapy”, for those who remember their biology classes). The LSD treatment unit at Powick was established in 1958, but was disbanded in 1966, due to problems of illicit recreational use.

So from classical music to tripping, there are your trivia facts for today!


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