Music Webmaster: L.Mullenger@coventry.ac.uk nger
MY LIFE AS A LECTURER
It looks as though I may be able to hold the longest record as a lecturer, at any rate on Music, in the Guinness Book of Records for I started in 1945 and have been and have continued until 1995 - a clear half century.
I started Lecturing when I became a "schoolie", a warrant officer in the Navy in 1942. In my school days I fought shy of proposing or seconding a motion, but my experience as an actor at school had stood me in good stead for the art of lecturing in later life. At Chatham in 1942, as I have described already we were given little pamphlets and expected to hold forth to keep the troops quiet for an hour or so. I did not give any music lectures until I reached the Admiralty and arranged tours for myself in the best parts of Scotland where the troops had to be kept amused or arranged weekend schools to keep men and women interested until D Day.
In doing this I was naturally put in touch with the W.E.A. and London University who became my employers once I was demobbed, so that my activities at the Admiralty stood me in good stead to become a freelance lecturer on my return to civilian life. By this time I had become quite used to lecturing on any musical subject.
It was natural that when I was demobbed I should become a W.E.A and eventually a London University Sessional and Tutorial lecturer on Music and the pay I got from these lectures was usually enough to take the place of the pay I was receiving as an officer in the navy.
One of the first classes I took was at Southend where I became friendly with a young man who said he had a cousin, Alice Wakefield who wanted to learn singing. Did I know of a teacher whom I could recollect. I was able to put her immediately in touch with Antony Benskin and she soon became one of our best Sopranos in the Sacred Music Drama Society. I was thus able to move from one of my activities as a musician to another with benefit to both.
One of the longest and most successful of my classes was at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Golding. We had a friendly and efficient secretary named Ernest Bailey with whom I kept in touch for many years after the class ended. My future wife came to this Class after I had met her at the Summer School at Westonbirt, so it helped to keep us in touch until we actually got married in connection with another class at Wanstead. It was only after Mr. Golding died and Mrs. Golding went to live in another locality that my Finchley Class came to an end.
Another Class that lasted some time but came to me in a very different way was at Crayford in Kent. The local Adult Education Centre had no connection with London University and when they wanted a music lecturer had applied to the B.B.C. I dont know how long he had been going to Crayford but when the time came that he needed a substitute he used to ring me up and see if I was available to act as his substitute at Crayford. The time came when he no longer wanted to go to Crayford, and so I became saddled with the job. I shall never forget how when I turned up at the beginning of the Autumn Term the Secretary met me with the somewhat startling words: "Youre looking pretty!" What he meant was that more people had signed on for the music class than ever before. It was a big contrast when the Third Year came to an end. We had been doing Puccinis operas and had come to Il Trittico just before Turandot. The subject was Suor Angelica which Puccini is said to have liked best of all his operas. I began to tell the story, but as it continued I began to realise I was getting more and more moved until I nearly broke down. When the next Autumn came, there was no letter from Crayford. I realised that my dealings with Crayford had come to an end.
About this time I became a regular contributor to Music Magazine, a BBC feature on Sunday mornings, edited by Julian Herbage and Anna Instone. I remember being taken to the BBC Club, across the road from Broadcasting House, after my first contribution to Music Magazine, where we fore-gathered for a drink and Anna Instone said: "if you have any ideas for Music Magazine, let us know."
Of course I had plenty of ideas, and for some time I contributed regularly to these Sunday Morning features. My last contribution was on the subject of "Horn Notes". I remember Julian Herbage had some objection to this term which apparently had some questionable connotation of which I, in my innocence, was completely unaware. It was a musical term, meaning a sixth followed by a fifth followed by a major third, called "horn notes" merely because it was a progression that suited the horns in particular, of which I as a horn-player, had become specially conscious.
Julian Herbage eventually gave way and I am lucky enough to have a recording of my talk in Music Magazine. I can understand that it was my last. There are about 20 illustrations, none of them lasting for more than a few seconds, so that the very business of getting the illustrations together must have caused tremendous trouble. But the effect of the talk in general is quite marvellous, though I say it who shouldnt. It ends with the clear use of the horn-note progression in Shostakovichs 5th Symphony which brought him back into favour with the Communist authorities. One can imagine him chuckling to himself as he wrote it down. This will win them over. Theyve heard it plenty of times before!"
My Classes were not always so successful as those I have described. I remember one that seemed to be administered by a lady who took it upon herself to control everything that took place. At one of our early meetings we had a visit from on high as frequently happened when the Office at London University wanted to know how things were going. This officer told me that the Lady had alluded to me as "that old crow." I need hardly say that this Class did not last very long. But most of my classes were different from this.
I never knew whether it was collusion or pure chance when I was appointed to the Wanstead Classes where my future wife was working at a Wanstead school. She became the Secretary of my Class and when we got married we were naturally given a wedding present. Moreover the Class lasted long enough for them to give us a present for our first baby, and I went on going to Wanstead long after my wife had ceased to go to evening classes at all.
Another locality, nearer home, where I seemed to have a considerable success was Edgware. It was an afternoon Class I had there, and I used to take the train to Wanstead for the same evening. I remember especially a lady called Zoe Zelnick, with the surprising initials Z.Z., whom I met and with whom I had a conversation on the train leaving Edgware. We have remained in touch ever since, though she has gone to live in Florida. She sends me a Christmas card every year from America, and when I had my 90th birthday Concert in 1995 she sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers.
My final Classes were at Ashstead and Chorleywood. I have kept in touch with Mrs. Megan Caney, who came to my 90th birthday concert at St. Johns Smith Square in 1995. I have also remained in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Steadman, especially after they moved to Cornwall, where they have visited us at Trylewyth on several occasions and where I hope to see them again.
My most wonderful Class has undoubtedly been the one that started at Chorleywood, which I joined first as a stop-gap, strangely enough when the tutor took up singing. We spent many years at Chorleywood, especially at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Buszard, where our excellent Secretary, Mr. John Scrivener used to meet and transport me, together with Mrs. Willy Cockle, who also came by train.
Gradually London University gave up on me as one too old to take Sessional and Tutorial Classes. But we hung on for some time with the W.E.A. with whom I had first started. My 80th Birthday came and was celebrated at a luncheon party at the Hotel near the Chorleywood Station.
I think this was the first occasion when my wife joined the Class, as she had been teaching, but after this she became a regular member. Sadly we lost our very good Secretary, Mr. John Scrivener, who had helped us so much over the years. We were fortunate that Miss Joan Walden became our new Secretary and she has been most helpful to us all over a long period.
Soon Mr. Buszard explained that he would not be able to continue owing to his difficulty in hearing music. This meant a change of venue, but Mr. and Mrs. Clark came to our rescue by offering us their home at Chalfont St. Giles. Later on Dr. and Mrs. Fox opened their home to us.
Our final home has been with Dr. Donald and Mrs. Ros Garrow at Roughwood Farmhouse in the depths of the country, also in Chalfont St. Giles. Donald is an excellent flautist who plays in the local Misborough Orchestra. They have made us most welcome for many years.
Meanwhile my years became too advanced to continue with the W.E.A. but the Class asked me if I would continue privately. Unfortunately two of our much valued members, Peggy Wood and Frank Ashby, who had supported us so much for many years, became unable to attend.
But two new members turned up in the Autumn, as if to take their place: Elise Stribbling and Ken Ogborne, who both told me that my lectures became the highlight of their week. Sadly Ken died of heart failure but Elise has continued.
We carried on until after my 90th birthday concert, and then decided that the time had come for us to give up. However, Ros and Donald still invite us over at times, which we all much enjoy. At our last official class our friends Edith Griffin and Eileen Watts, who had joined the Chorley Wood Class before I did, had been with me for twenty year. The other members were: Margaret Adamson and Joy and Ted Danter, Ros and Donald Garrow, Peggy Gundry, Wendy Hall, Nancy Melville, Geoff Mitchell, Zoe Simpson, Elise Stribbling and Joan Walden. What a wonderful experience it had been for me! Thank you Ros and Donald, for all you have done to help us over many years.
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