As only the second blind musician after John Stanley to take the B.Mus degree at Oxford, William Wolstenholme had no less a person than Edward Elgar as his amanuensis. They had met when Elgar taught him the violin at the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen. In October 1887 he received a desperate summons from Wolstenholme in Oxford, who found himself unable to get on with the official assistant assigned to him. (The senior musician did not endear himself to the examiner, Sir Frederick Bridge, when he pointed out a mistake in the examination paper.) Wolstenholme enjoyed a warm friendship with another noted blind organist, Alfred Hollins, and the two often tried out their new works on each other and performed the other’s music in concert. When in January 1916 Hollins was travelling to South Africa for the opening of the organ in Johannesburg Town Hall he asked his friend for a new piece. The present Bohemesque
was the result. It is a scherzo with two trios and shows that the composer was clearly well acquainted with the dance-band music of his day. When Wolstenholme told Hollins that it was going to have a time signature of 15/8 (five compound beats to the bar) the dedicatee was somewhat taken aback. As he later wrote: ‘At first I thought he must be joking about the 15/8 time, but there it was in black and white, or rather, in Braille dots, as clear as day’.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2001