Omnibus (1967–2003)
17 user 14 critic

Song of Summer 

Traces last 5 years of the life of Frederick Delius through the eyes of the young composer Eric Fenby


Ken Russell


Eric Fenby (scenario), Ken Russell (scenario) | 1 more credit »


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?



Episode complete credited cast:
Max Adrian ... Frederick Delius
Maureen Pryor Maureen Pryor ... Jelka Delius
Christopher Gable ... Eric Fenby
David Collings ... Percy Grainger
Geraldine Sherman Geraldine Sherman ... Girl Nextdoor
Norman James Norman James ... Doctor
Elizabeth Ercy ... Maid
Roger Worrod Roger Worrod ... Bruder


Based on Eric Fenby's 1936 memoir 'Delius as I knew him', it traces the last years of Frederick Delius, and Fenby's dedication in giving up five years of his life to helping the blind, paralysed composer set down the unfinished scores he could hear in his head. Perhaps the finest of the series of biographical films that Ken Russell made for the BBC in the Sixties, Song of Summer is an immensely moving story of sacrifice, idealism and musical genius. Written by Philip Kemp

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Director Ken Russell has remarked that this television film is, in his opinion, the best of all the films he has ever made, either for cinema or television, and said that "I don't think I would have done a single shot differently." See more »


Frederick Delius: [introducing the eccentric stranger to Fenby] That's Percy Grainger. Sometimes, he composes.
See more »


Featured in Film Review: Ken Russell (1968) See more »

User Reviews

Song of Sadness and Hope
29 January 2005 | by MISSMOOHERSELFSee all my reviews

A middle-age composer is struck down by paralysis and blindness brought on by syphilis. All the music still living inside him must remain there forever, or so it seems, until a young man volunteers his time to bring that music to life. Such is the remarkable but true story of Frederic Delius and his amanuenses, Eric Fenby.

In 1929, Eric Fenby was a young man living in England, a frustrated musician earning money by playing background music for Laurel & Hardy films. One night, he reads in the paper of Frederic Delius' tragic plight and, possessing a young man's impulsiveness, decides to go to Grez-sur-Loing, where Delius lives with his wife, Jelka, and offer his assistance.

When they first meet, it is NOT a meeting of the minds. Delius (played so wickedly wonderfully well by Max Adrian) says he wants to compose and he starts humming. Fenby, in frustration, realizing the uphill battle he has taken on, asks, "What key is it in, Sir" and Delius loses patience with the well-meaning young man. An uneasy start, to be sure, but by the end, previously unheard music finds its way onto paper and into concert halls.

This is a wonderful little film, part of a PBS series titled "Biography." The series had been narrated by Lady Antonia Fraser and she did a wonderful job introducing the film and understanding just what a miracle had occurred in 1929 when Fenby decided to help Delius.

But this movie is far from being maudlin and you do NOT end up feeling sorry for Delius. Despite being blind and paralyzed, he is not without talent and he certainly isn't without wit.

When Fenby asks him what he thinks of certain composers, he says of one, "He would have set the entire Bible to music if he'd lived long enough." He also decides to act as a father to Fenby - not having children of his own and being so much older than Fenby, it probably was natural in the course of their relationship. Being an atheist, he suggests Fenby get rid of his "great Christian blinders" but Fenby, being a devout Roman Catholic, ignores this suggestion.

But, later in the film, Fenby ends up being the "parent" as Delius becomes sicker and Jelka develops stomach cancer and requires surgery. He had served as a confidant to Jelka and it is from her that he (and we) learns what Delius was like as a young man - his incredible womanizing, the brutal way he treated Jelka and finally, his contracting syphilis from the women with whom he had slept.

And in the end, no matter how tragic their plight, Delius and Fenby together brought to light some incredibly beautiful music - the music that inspired the title and the picture. It runs like a thread throughout the film and gives it a joy and a hope you would not expect considering the subject.

This wonderful movie is well worth a look if it ever appears on TV again. It's available on British DVD but not on American DVD or VHS. That's a shame. However, the music that inspired it is available on CD and is also well worth listening to. And viewers will be amazed at what Fenby gave up - and what we all got - as a result of his service - which lasted for 5 years until Delius died - to a great composer. We are all blessed by the sacrifice.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 17 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.





English | German

Release Date:

15 September 1968 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed