Patrick Vaughan's Story


Story submitted, October 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:

    - Irish -

    The country in which you went to school:

    - Northern Island-

    Your age:

    - 74 -

    The year in which you left school:

    - 1956 -

  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):

    - Aged 8-13, one weekly class of 'Comminuty Singing', with teacher accompanying on piano. -

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

    - O Level and A Level Music. -

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

    - Piano lessons from age 6, and organ lessons ages 17-18. -

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

    - O Level piano performing. A Level piano performing and organ performing. -

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

    - None. -

    Other musical study (give details):

    - Private tuition in preparation for attempt at ARCO. -

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

    - I sing bass in the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus. I own a harpsichord and upright piano, which I play for private enjoyment. . I also enjoy amateur music-making at home - for instance I accompany a couple of friends who are competent amateur singers, and play continuo with a small group of friends who share an interest in baroque music. -

    - I am a regular attender at local chamber music concerts (Music in the Round at Sheffield), and am a 'Friend' of this organisation. -

    - I listen to Radio 3 a lot, and subscribe to the BBC Music Magazine. -

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

    - From reading 'Chances and Choices' [having won the book in a MitR raffle!]. -

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 father played the piano and sang. Mostly it was hymns, and when my voice began to break I learned to read and sing the appropriate part in the music hymnbook. I and my three siblings all had private piano lessons, and my brother learned the bassoon as well. So there was a lot of 'practicing' always going on in the home. We also enjoyed playing piano duets together (Schubert's 'Marches Militaires' come to mind), or I might accompany my sister singing. There was an old edition of 'Messiah' in the piano stool, and I would work my way through the piano reduction... My brother got keen on Scott Joplin rags. -

    - Parental approval and support (in paying for lessons) was taken for granted. On family occasions (eg at Christmas) playing the piano and singing to the others was a regular part of the fun. My father had a limited repertoire of party pieces which invariably were called upon - 'The Robbers' Chorus' and a Mendelssohn Song without Words (the one in E which begins with arpeggios up the keyboard)come to mind. He could still play these when called upon to do so at his Golden Wedding. -

    - Having a piano in the drawing room encouraged everyone to consider music-making to be a natural part of everyday life. -

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

    - I was sent to a boarding school (ages 13-18), and hated it. But music was the one thing that made life there bearable. I was lucky to have an inspirational music teacher (Tony Smith GRSM, who had just finished his National Service where he spent most of his time in a regimental brass band playing horn), and a very competent pianist and organist. I joined the school choir which sang for Sunday services, and through this began to become acquainted with the Anglican church music tradition (Purcell's 'Bell Anthem' was an early favourite). We also sang some choruses from 'Messiah' - in successive years I sang alto, tenor and finally bass. -

    - The school had regular concerts, sponsored I think by CEMA, which brought in internationally famous musicians. Dennis Brain was one of them - his performance on 15' of hose pipe remains etched in memory! -

    - For school Assembly each morning Tony Smith would always play a classical piece of music beforehand (while we waited for the Head to arrive). He would put up on a notice board what the music was for each week, including Sunday organ voluntaries. This helped enlarge my musical knowledge. More important perhaps was the school Gramophone Club; we could put in requests, and the master in charge organised an evenings' programme accordingly. In this way I began to become familiar with orchestral music and with opera arias. -

    - In my last year at school, Tony Smith asked me to play the piano for the hymn at school Assembly and also to play the organ for Sunday services. This gave me the nerve-wracking experience of leading a large body of boys in singing. I also had to accompany the singing of the National Anthem on several occasions, and had to play it from memory. Important memories are also of other musical school friends - we would play to each other, and talk about the music together. -

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

    - Beyond doubt Tony Smith has been the fundamental musical influence in my life. Apart from the technicalities of teaching me piano/organ, harmony, orchestration, musical history etc, he helped me to understand music. He was very keen on Vaughan Williams, and I remember listening to the broadcast first performance of his 8th symphony. His love of organ music inevitably infected me with lifelong fascination with JSBach. -

    - As an undergraduate, the conductor of the Dublin University Choral Society (Jo Groocock) inspired my love of choral singing. I became a Committee member and was pleased eventually to become Secretary of the Society, which is the oldest University choral society in the world. It was in this choir that I first heard and sang the B Minor Mass. -

    - At Cambridge, I joined CUMS, then under David Wilcox. He made choral singing such fun. -

    - Much of my working career has involved evening work (teaching), and membership of a choral society has not been possible. During this period of my life the radio and gramophone became increasingly important, for example I built up an LP collection of Barenboim's Beethoven sonatas. -

    - In the last decade of my working life I came to live in Sheffield, and without question Peter Cropper and the Lindsay Quartet have been the greatest influence at this stage. They have introduced me to Chamber Music, which I was not well aware of before. I became a regular attender at Music in the Round concerts. -

    - More recently, with the arrival of Ensemble 360, I have been deeply influenced by the musicians themselves. I have been lucky enough to have been able to offer some of them overnight accommodation and rehearsal space in my house. In this way I have been able to see at close quarters how the life of a professional musician ticks. I have become deeply affected by their commitment to sharing a perception of life through music. Conversations with the Elias Quartet and with Tim Horton have deepened the way that I listen to music now. -

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

    - As a 10 year old, going with my parents to 'Messiah' in the Ulster Hall: an 'old-fashioned' performance with huge forces; I especially remember how colossal was the sound of the organ in \ ... Wonderful Counsellor...\" and how I waited in anticipation for it to return a 2nd and a 3rd and even a 4th time. Thrilling. *Singing the B Minor Mass as an undergraduate in 1960 and hearing the high Bach trumpets in the Sanctus for the first time. *Singing the St Matthew Passion from the West end of Kings College Chapel and after the chord \"Barabbas\" - David WEilcox holding us from proceeding until the resonance from the East end had returned! *Singing the St John Passion with a small 'ex-pat' choir in Namirembe Cathedral Kampala in the year of General Amin's coup d'etat; a completely African audience gaining solace in a time of deep distress. -

    - Singing Tippet's 'Child of our Time' when my marriage was breaking down: singing through tears 'Nobody knows the trouble I seen...' *Singing Berlioz' Requiem in York Minster: I shall not need to wait for the 'Last Trump' to sound - I have heard it already. *In my late 50s hearing the Lindsays play Beethoven's 'Cavatina' (Op.130): I had not know that music could reach such depths of existence. For my 70th birthday going on pilgrimage to Leipzig and on Maundy Thursday attending Johannes-Passion in St Thmas Church sung by the Thomanerchor with the Gewandhausorchester. By custom there was no applause because it was seen as an act of prayerful meditation. In the silence afterwards walking up to the Sanctuary where JSB's grave is and finding it betrewn with tribute roses. Singing the Missa Solemnis and actually achieving 'lift-off' in the Gloria under David Hill's baton. Sitting in on a 'lesson' on Opus 130 that Peter Cropper gave to Elias Quartet in my house. -

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

    - Not really. My life in music has been rich. -

  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 been astonished to realise how many of my great musical experiences have been through taking part in choral performances. -

    - While teaching in a College in Uganda, I was put in charge of music in the College Chapel. I introduced the idea of having traditional-style singing and drumming to the student choir. This was enthusiastically taken up by some musically talented students who began composing their own small scale choral works. We also held workshops, actually making an amadinda (large xylophone). -

    - I love attending Cathedral Choral Evensong, and will always try to do so when visiting a great historic cathedral. I joined the Cathedral Chamber Choir in order to sing in such spaces, and enjoyed singing all the Cathedral's services for a week in August (when the resident choir is on holiday). In this way I have sung in Norwich and York and Durham Cathedrals. -

    - Aged 63, I enrolled for the Open University third level course on Beethoven (A341), and successfully passed the exam - the first exam I have sat since graduation! -