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A school story

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Author Topic: A school story  (Read 418 times)
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« on: December 11, 2017, 04:47:41 pm »

I was so fortunate to grow up in a house surrounded by music. My grandfather had been a church organist although he had retired by that time. My father had been the timpanist in an amateur orchestra set up during World War Two. He had been taught by the timpanist of the Reid Orchestra (the University of Edinburgh orchestra). Our house was full of 78s (several of which I broke accidentally) with music by Beethoven. Brahams, Wagner, Gilbert and Sullivan etc etc. My father took me to my first orchestral concert when I was nine. We sat in the organ gallery of the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to see the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent play "The Planets". When I got to around 13-14 my father started buying me LPs: Mahler's Symphony No.1, a lot of Sibelius.

....but school? The Head of Music had no interest in anybody who did not have a good enough voice to join the elite school choir- it was invited to sing at the wedding of the Prime Minister's daughter (the PM was Sir Alec Douglas-Home). One of the choir's leading lights was Ian Charleson, who went on to star in "Chariots of Fire" and died tragically of AIDS.  So I spent my time endlessly listening to and discussing music with my great friend Malcolm MacDonald. We took over the school's Music Society and used it as a means of playing our favourite records to ourselves and a very small group of reasonably like-minded friends. So there was a lot of Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, William Walton......

Malcolm of course went on to be the great authority on Havergal Brian but another friend has conducted on cd (the John Blackwood McEwen Solway Symphony and other works by that Scottish composer).

However, continuing the organ theme. One of my friends then (and still today) played the organ in a local church. One day I sat beside him as he played a piece I had never heard but which was so astonishingly virtuosic, exciting, grand.....

Olivier Messiaen's "Dieu parmi nous" from "La Nativite du Seigneur":
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