Once again a I am bowled over by the richness of musical memories recalled by a Choral Stalwart. I certainly am learning new things about my fellow singers. Here Anne Henderson offers a glimpse of an incredibly musical childhood.
I grew up in a houseful of music. Mum was a pianist and music teacher and Dad a professional violinist and they had grown up in families full of music too. Their parents and siblings were good musicians… my grandad played ‘cello and church organ, mum’s younger sister became a professional singer and during the war years Polish soldiers flocked to their house in Fife to make music, playing and singing with them, no doubt also attracted by the presence of the two young ladies in the household! Dad joined with this entertainment providing yet another string to the bow as it were. Consequently it was hard to avoid being musical with that heritage behind me.
Early family memories from London… Dad playing Covent Garden, touring in the 1950’s with the London Phil and Royal Phil, sending airmail letters home from Russia and Europe ( I still have the letters) for my sister and me . I think I was probably more interested in the stamps than the content of the letter! There is an early memory of being at Covent Garden down in the front stalls just in front of the timpani – a bit scary for a 4 year old. There is a photo of my sister and me playing on the roof of the Festival hall, which opened in 1951. At one time, in London we lived in a block of concrete flats next door to a flamenco dancer … concrete was a good sound conductor of guitar and stamping Spanish heels!
Later days in Scotland, of course I had to learn piano, mum being a pianist but then as a stroppy teenager, practice fell away and I gave up too soon. I still have that same piano which she used for her music studies at Edinburgh University. I have many happy memories though of my sister and I singing duets at that piano with Mum playing, Scottish songs and part songs : there was an endless choice.
Dad being a professional musician, worked many evenings, so there was less opportunity for them to play together but when they did, after I was supposed to be in bed, I would creep to the head of the stairs and listen to them playing …Brahms Lullaby is fixed in my memory bank now. I was more likely to be exposed to him playing hours of scales and arpeggios rather than any ‘tunes’. Funnily enough I wasn’t attracted to learn the fiddle despite them being all over the house (alongside ‘cello and double basses, often in bits I might add – this just seemed normal to me). He taught me ‘cello for a while.
I was always in school choirs and plays and even ended up playing ‘Tessa’ in G&S ‘The Gondoliers’ at secondary school partnered by a spotty, lanky, youth who couldn’t dance at all! Living north of Glasgow just down the road from New Kilpatrick Church it was logical to spend a few years in New Kilpatrick singers with Tryphie Nixon at the helm which was fun and good training.
Family camping holidays might have a musical connection sometimes. There had to be a pilgrimage to Cremona in north Italy to the violin museum with Stradivari and Guarneri instruments, of course for Dad . We camped by the River Po and were rewarded with masses of mosquito bites for our trouble. I wasn’t impressed.
Singing just has always seemed the natural thing to do and a lot easier than practicing piano or ‘cello. So many years passed with academic studies, a wedding, work, houses and then I joined SCS in 2005 – my first mixed choir since primary school. I enjoy it hugely especially the big works. I’m in awe of members whose musical knowledge is vast and their experience and voices remarkable but it’s all about enjoyment and doing something for fun and wellbeing. Roll on Brahms Requiem 2021.