Anonymous's Story


Story submitted, August 2012.


Some background information

  1. So that I can compare responses between countries and across generations, please give me the following background information on when and where you went to school.

    Your nationality:

    - British -

    The country in which you went to school:

    - UK -

    Your age:

    - 57 -

    The year in which you left school:

    - 1972 -

  2. I also need some information on your formal music education (if you had one), so please give details below of any lessons or qualifications in music that you have taken.  You will have chance to expand on these answers later, so brief details are fine at this stage.

    Years of classroom music in school (e.g. aged 5-14):

    - Apr 17 -

    School exams in music (e.g. O Level, GCSE):

    - O Level, A Level-

    Instrumental / vocal lessons (e.g. piano from aged 9 to 15):

    - Piano 7-17; Cello 13-17; Organ 16-17. -

    Instrumental / vocal exams (e.g. Grade 5 trumpet aged 14):

    - Piano age 15 Gr 6 (A level reqt); no exams taken in other instruments. -

    Music at college / university (e.g. music degree at York):

    - MA in Psychology for Musicians at Sheffield 2004-5. -

    Other musical study (give details):

    - LTCL (GMT) 1984; ARCO 2004. -

  3. Please give a brief description of your current involvement in music:

    - Currently working towards an M Mus at Sheffield: my dissertation looks at transferable musical skills and my performance module focuses on the organ music of Théodore Dubois. I do some freelance organ playing / accompaniment for local churches and festivals. -

  4. Please tell me where you heard about this research project:

    - From the author. -

Thank you for those details.  The rest of the questionnaire is more open-ended: there are five prompts about home background, school experiences, influential people, highlights and regrets, and you can use those to tell your story in whatever way makes sense to you.

Please answer in as much detail as you feel able to, focusing on those questions which are most relevant to you, and giving specific memories and examples whenever you can.



Life history prompts

  1. What kind of music was going on in your home as a child? How influential do you think this was in your development?

    - My mother played the piano and this would feature in our childhood games - e.g: playing for Musical Bumps etc at parties and (a particular memory)Ketelby's 'In a Persian Market' for dressing up and acting out with my two sisters. -

    - My father was an Anglican cleric and so we were exposed to church music from the start. I joined the church choir at 7 or 8 and continued singing through junior school and secondary school choirs. -

    - Equally inflential was the stack of sheet music in the piano stool featuring 'songs from the shows' - Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Ivor Novello, Noel Coward and the like - and some light operetta, including Gilbert & Sullivan. Together with the diet of Bing Crosby/Bob Hope and Fred Astaire films on television, these contributed in no small measure to my enthusiasm for musical theatre in its many forms. -

    - All three children were sent for piano lessons; my elder sister took up the oboe and my younger sister the flute, so there were occasions on which we played together as a trio, but more often it was piano duets with my elder sister - Brahms Hungarian Dances and Schubert Marche Militaire stick in the memory. -

    - My mother's father used to sing around the house, snatches from popular songs from variety and music hall. So in all I was exposed more to light music as something to be performed and enjoyed together, rather than listening to performances of classical repertoire. -

    - Later I worked with my mother on various pastiches of G&S for 'parish entertainments' (before the Two Ronnies made it a stock part of their show); this probably provided the impetus for my writing (in late teens, early twenties) musicals satirising village life, as well as cabaret material. -

  2. What are your memories of school music? (These might include people, activities, opportunities…)

    - My main memory of nursery school was 'Music and Movement', where we would be encouraged by a mysterious radio voice to stretch and sway, imitate plants opening, fish swimming, etc to appropriate musical accompaniment. At junior school I learnt the recorder and sang in the choir (which gave me my first big musical experience: we went to sing at the Petersfield Festival and we were accompanied by an orchestra. This had a huge impact on me, particularly the sound of the cellos.) My memories of class music are less clear, but certainly contained a substantial diet of folk songs. We also were taught country dancing, which turned out to be invaluable when barn-dances and ceilidhs were a staple ingredient of teenage social life! -

    - I went to an independent grammar school for boys, which also provided the cathedral choir, but was unable to join that as I lived too far away and my father felt I should sing in the local church choir. Nonetheless a few of us supplemented their ranks for particular events, first as trebles and then later as tenors and basses, but we did not get the training or the exposure to the repertoire one would have gained in the cathedral choir. -

    - At school there was also the orchestra, which also combined forces on occasion with the equivalent girls's school (never as exciting as we imagined) and the CCF band (in which I played the fife). -

    - I did O and A level music as well as learning piano, cello and organ, but on reflection I do not feel that the music staff really helped us develop our musicianship or as musicians - just pass the exams. The informal concerts were a chore rather than an opportunity. -

  3. Who has been influential on your musical behaviour at various stages of your life?

    - In my childhood child, clearly my mother was the major influence, but sibling rivalry also provided some stimulus. Choirmasters at church and school were also a source of encouragement, but I particularly remember my cello teachers, who really started to instil in me a sense of self-belief as a musician. -

    - After university, where I was more active on the production than the musical side of musical theatre and opera, I was only playing (the organ) intermittently until persuaded by a girlfriend that I should take it more seriously. I was hugely encouraged by the organist at Dunstable Priory, who allowed me to become his assistant, playing for services and the choir 'holiday' at Bath Abbey. -

    - Then when I was in France, doing an MBA, the local choral society director asked me to run the bass section and also accompany the choir's performances. All this helped rekindle my enthusiasm to the extent I decided to resume organ lessons and take ARCO. My teachers at St Giles brought me to a new level of understanding and interest, encouraging me to perform public recitals. This prompted an interest in the Psychology of Music and enrolling on the Sheffield distance learning programme and a route for combining my professional life in management consulting and in learning and development with my musical interests. -

    - I was a bit doubtful as most of the others were working in music, but I was reassured by the academic responsible for the course; later she also became my dissertation supervisor and helped me understand where I might best apply my own experience. Just as important was the reassurance I received from colleagues on the MA, who seemed to accept me as one of them. -

    - Now I am continually discovering new ways of exploring music, stimulated by the guidance and support of both my organ teacher and my MMus supervisor, who have inspired / enabled me to take on challenges I could not have imagined 20 years ago. -

  4. What have been the highlights of your musical life history so far?

    - That junior school choir festival in Petersfield in 1966 when I discovered what it was like to be part of something thrilling and wonderful. -

    - As a treble in 'Noye's Fludde' in the Cathedral in 1967. -

    - Writing, performing and directing musical theatre as a teenager - discovering how shy performers can blossom and barriers be broken down through working together. -

    - Being invited by a conductor to guest with a choir as a bass in Bach's Magnificat and Mozart's Requiem 1972. -

    - Singing alongside Jane Glover in the wings during Oxford production of Idomeneo; being asked to work on her production of Orfeo the next year (but I couldn't due to exams!). -

    - Being asked when a student by a Covent Garden producer if I would consider a career in opera production. -

    - Seeing Valkyrie at Covent Garden in 1978. -

    - Production Manager for centenary revival of 'Bethlehem' by Rutland Boughton (conductor Michael Hurd). -

    - Playing and conducting in Bath Abbey 1984. -

    - Directing an English choir in Fontainebleau at the town's carol service. -

    - Being appointed Choirmaster and Organist at the Anglican ProCathedral in Brussels. -

    - Passing my ARCO in 2004; playing a recital at St Lawrence Jewry, with my son acting as registrant 2008; playing the Cavaille-Coll organ at St Ouen, Rouen. -

    - Getting my MA in Psychology for Musicians and then having my dissertation findings published in a series of articles. -

    - Accompanying on the piano an American soprano in a concert of songs from musical theatre. -

  5. Do you have any regrets about missed opportunities in music?

    - I wish I had understood more of what music is about while a teenager. As a good sight-reader I never found out until very recently how to learn a piece properly. -

    - I wish I had kept up orchestral playing (and my cello)while at Oxford and done more performing there instead of moving into production (which I enjoyed, but I should like to feel able to join an orchestra or chamber group now). -

  6. Please add any final comments below on the process of telling your musical life history, or any other details that you feel you've missed out of your account so far.

    - I have learnt that it is not too late to start again, so maybe the cello will come out its case finally and I shall find a choir or an instrumental group to join, so I can enjoy that particular pleasure from working within a group to produce something thrilling. -