Stephen Hall

I was born into a working class family (1949) in industrial Loughborough, Leics and was a ‘sickly child’ so schooling was often interrupted.

My parents owned a couple of old gramophones and Dad had a lot of American 78s from his war service in the RAF so I was drawn into the sheer fascination of sound coming from those dance band and piano shellacs.

Grammar school on an 11+ scholarship gave little musical education in a ‘top stream’ timetable but a couple of excellent teachers allowed us to listen to popular classics on electric record players and some wonderful sounds stuck with me.

University in Sheffield, reading Philosophy, allowed access to marvellous Hallé/SNO concerts in the Oval Hall as well as Firth Hall concerts with the Pierrot Players (later Fires of London) and the Lindsays as Sheffield’s resident string quartet when young. Such luck to hear quality when I was in my 20s at an important time for music.

I met and assisted John Cage when visiting pals at York University and became friendly with Henze and, later, Bedford when in the working world. Max and Harry were always charming to students but actually assisting an older generation, as a non-musician but a man with ears, was so thrilling. I was very lucky indeed.

My career was in special education and extremely rapid progress (headmaster at 29) allowed me to buy good equipment and the vast archives I have resulted from efficient use of it using Ferrograph and Revox for the excellence of the Glock/Ponsonby management of BBC’s classical output. I also bought LPs in that rash of adventure in the 1970s (usually two copies) because I foresaw that companies would cut and run, duly warned by Stockhausen, Ligeti and some top conductors of that time and still with us.

A non-musician was given respect as an amateur enthusiast with ears and recording abilities by some of the greats. I just knew that I lived at an important time and that corporations would bottle out sooner or later.

Despite a busy working life and increasing bouts of illness, I was lucky enough to make two classical music series for BBC Radio Norfolk (syndicated) in my spare time and this led to making important contacts in the festivals world, notably Aldeburgh and its archives.

I completed a very late PhD in 1996 (Epistemology but using some musical test technique results I had devised working with autistic children). Apart from that career and music remained separate.

Serious illness caused the end of my career in 1998 and my children were of an age to be set for tertiary education so I retired to rural Ireland at the end of 2000 for the silence needed for listening.

Such remote and simple living isn’t for everyone but I love music and was lucky enough to have an excellent education so my ‘job’ is maintaining an archive and hearing things anew in such a silent place.

What is issued and, indeed, reviewed on MWI is far from all that there is so a disabled man as custodian of music not heard for a generation is an inherent satisfaction with a view to sharing it as and when – and with it the cultural context of important times and scholarship.

Besides, music is damned good fun!


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