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This photograph was taken in the early 1930s when my father was at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Can anyone identify some of the others present, or date the picture for us, please?

Hexthorpe Junior Mixed School Doncaster c. 1951 - showing just how successful the West Riding's peripatetic instrumental service was after the war.   Some 22 violinists on stage from one small, fairly working class primary school would be even more impressive today!  Kerry Milan is on stage, just to the right of the conductor's hand.  Can anyone name some of the other children, please?  I'm afraid I've temporarily forgotten my teacher's name. The music adviser of course was William Appleby and the head of the peripatetic team was a Mr Goodman if I remember correctly.

Hexthorpe School, circa 1951.

Hans Gal 1925

Hans Gal

Leon Coates

Leon Coates

And what links these faces to our web site?

Hans Gal was born in Vienna in 1890.  The latter part of his life was spent in Edinburgh and he died there in 1987.  He was a prolific composer and I recall his attending a concert at which we were performing one of his works - 'we' being the Glasgow String Orchestra, which Adrian Secchi had founded in 1956 - rehearsals I remember being in Cecil Street, off Great Western Road. This concert must have been around 1959 and by coincidence I shortly afterwards played alongside his daughter, in the Edinburgh Rehearsal Orchestra, I think.  

In 1934 Gal composed his "Lyrical Suite on Robert Browning's dramatic poem Pippa Passes", for soprano, flute and string quartet.  One of its earliest performances was in Vienna in  May 1936, and it was performed there again in October 1997, but nearer to home the work was played in Edinburgh in 1987, with George Gwilt the flautist and the Edinburgh Quartet, with soprano Francesca Green. (The text is a translation into German by Helene Scheu-Riesz.)

Also in 1987 Francesca sang Gals' Fünf Lieder, op.33, accompanied by Leon Coates, again in Edinburgh.

Back in 1964 Leon, I and cellist Ann Morris had formed a piano trio taking Beethoven and Schubert etc to Staffordshire schools and music groups, and among our contacts then was a young solicitor Reg. Browning - the very same who forty five years later would be the stimulus for the composition of my own Five Songs of Asolo, from Pippa Passes, which Yvonne Howard and the English Piano Trio have recently recorded for Ardross House.

At a time when the Public Sector is under so much pressure, and when the Arts and Music within Education are facing such damaging cuts, these photographs (1992) look back just twenty years to a more optimistic age when Stafford Music Centre and the Friends of Staffordshire Young Musicians staged "A Grand Music and Dance Spectacular" featuring the Middle and High Schools of Stafford and Stone.  The two concerts, at 5.15 and 8.00 pm, featured different schools and different music ensembles; but in each case the finale was the Galop from Act 3 of Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach, with the brilliant dancers provided by Alleynes High School, Stone.

Stychfields Hall, Stafford 1992

Stychfields Hall Stafford 1992

Just a year later saw "A Musical Extravanga - The Poetry of Motion" this time  in partnership with eleven primary and middle schools.  On this occasion the finale was Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman's   Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I had the huge privilege of conducting these exciting and inspirational performances in a venue now sadly lost, English Electric / GEC's impressive Stychfields Hall in Stafford.  Never let us forget what is possible if we care enough about the Arts and what is lost for a generation if we don't .

Stychfields Hall, Stafford 1993

Something a little different this time!  Hannah Elizabeth ELLIS was born in Batley, Yorkshire, in 1872, and four of her scores have pride of place in my Library.  Which Yorkshire choir did she sing with, say in the 1890s or 1900s?
Perhaps someone looking at these scores (an Elijah too) might be able match them with old programmes of the era.  Wouldn't it be lovely if a programme still exists with Hannah's name among the performers!

I'm sure that my father studying singing at the Royal Academy of Music was a direct result of his mother's love of music.  And so my own life in music must, passed down through my father, also be partly thanks to Hannah Ellis's influence. 
And where did Hannah find her encouragement and inspiration?

All of which nicely ties in the world of music with our family tree research - the latest venture looking at the ELLIS background in the Nidderdale area of Yorkshire over seven generations, back to the Richard ELLIS who married Sara DAWSON at Spofforth on May 10th 1704.  Their first daughter Sarah would marry in 1725 at York Minster.
A splendid affair, no doubt.  And what music I wounder did the bride chose?

Four scores of Hannah Ellis of Batley
Mendelsshohn: St Paul,   Mendelssohn: Lobgesang,   Haydn: The Creation,   Elgar: King Olaf

Remembering Benjamin Britten in the year of his centenary.

The "Affinities" violin and piano sonata, mentioned above, is full of music in five beats per bar. I well remember my first encounter with this 'odd' time signature, when I was one of the string quartet accompanying The Little Sweep in Britten's Let's Make An Opera, sometime   in the 1950s.  Sadly I cannot now recall the venue; but it was probably when I was at school near Glasgow - so either somewhere in Renfrewshire or Ayrshire.

Twenty odd years later it was my turn to introduce children to Britten's music, when in charge of Staffordshire's Rugeley Music Centre. Now, in 2013, everything about LEA provision is denigrated; but in 1977 it all seemed to work so well, and Noye's Fludde at St Augustine's Church in Rugeley was a fine demonstration of what is possible when all the schools within an area can be brought together, here the three secondary schools Aelfgar, Fairoak and Hagley Park and many of the surrounding feeder schools.  There were nearly 80 animals/birds and over 50 children in the string orchestra.  I have listed the soloists below, and all others mentioned in the programme are included in the accompanying pdf file.

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Noye: Donald Templeton        Mrs Noye: Jill Bennet          The voice of God: Roy Harvey
Sem: Timothy Harvey          Jaffett: Paul Broomhead       Ham: Matthew Boyd
Mrs Sem: Vicky Bird            Mrs Jaffett:   Joy Houldcroft  Mrs Ham: Susan Bradbury
Mrs Noye's Gossips: Carolyn O'Brien, Andrea Smith, Marie Horobin, Carol Young, Elaine Wilson, Linda Pratt, Pauline Hill, Cartina Axten, Trudy James, Kerry Collier, Caroline James.                                         Waves: Children of Nursery Fields Primary School
Raven: Janet Bradley and Denise Gell              Dove: Deborah Greenhalgh
Solo Treble Recorder: Linda Hicks Piano: Gary Churchill, Alan Williams, Elizabeth Taylor
Organ: Eric Bennett   Timpani: Brian Thurlow
String Quintet: Mary Barker, Peter Davey, Jeremy Dutton, Judi Sutton, Derek Harper
Choreography: Mrs V.M. Towlson (Principal, Rugeley Studio of Dancing)
Cover and Poster: John Harvey
Repetiteur: J.C.P. Taylor        Choir: Mrs M.E. Taylor and Mrs R. Bottom
Costumes: Janet Huang   Property man: William Hewitt
Set Design and Construction: L. O'Brien
Musical Conductor: Kerry E. Milan                  Producer: Sheila Harvey
Our thanks to: County Music Adviser: J.W.R. Taylor  Recorders: Lynn Dutton
Handbells: Alan Hodges  Vicar, St Augustine's Church   Headmaster, Aelfgar: D.N. Langton
All headteachers and their staffs for support and assistance in many ways
Colwich Church for the use of their handbells
Mary Roberts and D. Fincher of Bridgnorth for the use of their handbells.

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This interesting feature has been prompted by the delightful news from one of my ex-pupils, Alison, that one of her own pupils, Macie Wallis, has recently been accepted by Chetham's Specialist Music School in Manchester.

Pace George Bernard Shaw, many of the very best perfomers have felt it important to pass on to the next generation the skills and experience they themselves had acquired from their own teachers.  What a pedigree this new young promising violinist can boast! 

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Gaetano PUGNANI b. 1731

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Giovanni Battista VIOTTI b. 1753

pupil of PUGNANI

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Charles Auguste de BERIOT b. 1802

pupil of VIOTTI

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Henri VIEUXTEMPS famous Belgian Violinist, Composer and Teacher, 1820 - 1881

- pupil of de BERIOT and very much part of the early days of the Franco-Belgian Violin School centred on Brussels Conservatoire

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- equally famous Polish Violinist, Composer and Teacher, 1835 -1880.

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Eugène YSAYE born 1858 Liège, renowned Belgian soloist and teacher, a pupil of VIEUXTEMPS and WIENIAWSKI

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Maurice RASKIN  born 1906 (left) pupil of Eugène YSAYE (and friend of Heitor VILLA-LOBOS) professor at Brussels Conservatoire.


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Louis CARUS born 1927

- studied Brussels Conservatoire and Peabody Conservatoire Baltimore

Taught Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama

(later Principal, Birmingham Conservatoire)


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Kerry MILAN born 1942

studied with  Louis Carus at RSAMD and Maurice Raskin in Brussels.

Taught for Staffordshire Music Service and headed the county's school for its potentially talented young musicians.


Here I should like to list my other two teachers, who do not fit into this direct line but who taught me a lot:

Jean RENNIE Scottish violinist, born Paisley in 1920? who was leader of the Scottish National Orchestra in the 1950s.

David MARTIN, born 1911 in Winnipeg, a much loved performer and teacher in London.  (He and Frederick GRINKE played the Bach Double Violin Concerto at the funeral of Ralph Vaughan Williams.)


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Alison GIFFIN born 1961

studied wth Kerry MILAN at Staffordshire CSPTYM then at Cardiff with Simon WEINMANN

Macie Wallis

Macie Wallis born 2001

pupil of Alison EVANS, accepted at Chetham's Specialist Music School, Manchester 2014.

April 2014.  This new contribution to the Photo Gallery has been prompted by the news that the government has now decided that local authorities should no longer fund music, visual and performing arts services.   Heaven help us.

And we shall be told that this will be to improve provision.  Heaven help us.

An earlier photograph (above) shows how successful local education authority provision could be over sixty years ago (with me aged about nine in Doncaster, West Riding) and if as a country we could afford it then we can certainly afford it now.  Heaven help us.

These two light-hearted photographs are from the eighties.  Stafford Music Centre had an enthusiastic and dedicated 'Friends' support group - a kind of PTA - and on top of all the usual concerts / festival activities we had annual youth hostelling weekends - and no, I don't think they cost the County Council anything.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about quality - just looking at my own school pupils, I have recordings of The Lark Ascending and the first movement of the Beethoven, accompanied by the staff orchestra.  A golden age indeed.  But very soon it will all be forgotten, as though a life-time away.  Heaven help us.

Stafford Music Centre - youth hostelling

Stafford Music Centre - youth hostelling

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This striking and flattering photograph was taken a year of two back!  by friend and colleague Darrell Wade during a break from rehearsals at the Victoria Hall, Hanley.

Apologies that as yet I have not obtained
a photograph of Ian Gleaves.

A few years later, in fact exactly forty years ago, pianist and lecturer Ian Gleaves and I were just a few hundred yards along the road from the Victoria Hall at the BBC studios doing recordings for two Listen In programmes produced by Ken Hopwood.   There were three sonatas, the Handel in G minor, Brahms is A opus 100 and the César Franck. 

What seems incredible to me, looking back, is that all three works were recorded together on the same afternoon, in one take, as if capturing a live performance. Nowadays we might have been able to ask to 'do that bit again'; but, the odd slip notwithstanding, it was still a very worthwhile experience. 

To give just a flavour of the day here are two excerpts from our last movement of the Franck, as used in a film made to celebrate our Golden Wedding.   Aaahh!   <<Franck mp3 file >>  

Remembering Doctor Gabs


Hotel Metropole: the '31 bar', October 2014

The Metropole Hotel, Brussels

In 1998 when we were staying at the beautiful Metropole Hotel in Brussels resident pianist Doctor Gabs was joined by our daughter-in-law Caroline Milan for some delightful after-dinner entertainment which thrilled all those present and which was the direct inspiration for the song "Metropole", composed just days later.

What a strange co-incidence that when we visited again in October 2014 we learnt that just the day before our arrival there had been a Tribute Jazz Evening - "The master is gone ..." held in Brussels to celebrate a wonderful versatile musician whose sudden death had shocked everyone.  His daughter Imelda Gabs carries on the tradition - see more on [EXTERNAL]

Our own "Metropole" site can be accessed from the Caroline Sings link, <<below>>; or go straight from here: <<Metropole site>> [EXTERNAL] You can listen to the song itself immediately, though, with our mp3 file featuring Caroline Milan and pianist Julian Hellaby, whose improvised spot Doctor Gabs would surely have applauded!  <<Metropole mp3 file>>

Julian Hellaby and Caroline Milan at the recording studios

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The Colwich MESSIAH - December 15th 2014: Kerry Milan, Emily Milan, Patrick Park, Sean Omer.

CSPTYM choir rehearsal 1986 conducted by Mike Revell

Staffordshire School for Potentially Talented Young Musicians  - 1986.

1986 - almost a different world.  Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister.  Local education authorities themselves provided some wonderful music provision, in schools, in music centres and in county youth ensembles.  And this in turn helped identify a generation of particularly talented youngsters who were given further tuition, not just on their instruments, but in aural, keyboard harmony, history, composition, chamber ensembles, recital platform and as seen here 'choir practice'!   Mike Revell is conducting, and staff members Lesley Park, Roy (AR) Wightman and I are also in the picture.   Darrell Wade (not seen here) was another longstanding member of our tutorial staff.

In 1986 we had nineteen students meeting every Thursday evening, working in three groups:

seniors:  Gwyneth Ellis, Deborah Kemp, Michael Murfin, Lee Nichols, Clarence Parnell, Richard Wade
intermediate: Neil Aston, Gavin Brooke, Harriet Edgar, Helen Jones, Susan Kitchen, Rosalind White
juniors: David Beaman, Damion Browne, Simon Browne, Patrick Heatherley, Jonathan Kitchen, David Shipley, Jonathan Smith

As well as their regular concerts, the children also took part in chamber competitions and ensemble workshops, with Louis Carus among our visiting guests.  Here below you can see nine of the children working with Dominic Aldiss, the brilliant jazz musician, orchestral conductor and arranger.  (The audience was made up of instrumental teachers.)

What a shame if all this is lost in the name of "Austerity".  Sadly, many people now have absolutely no idea how must has been lost, or how much state-educated children can achieve, given the right nurturing environment.

Talent School ensemble working with Dominic Aldiss

The Suzuki visit to London in 1971

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I am sitting in the front row at the left of this photograph. Immediately behind are two Staffordshire colleagues, to the left as we look Nora Dunn, and to the right Kay Smith. When I joined  Staffordshire CC Music Department in 1964 Nora and Kay were already long established members of the peripatetic team.

The following year, 1972, the Suzuki UK tour covered five venues in five days - Southampton, Bristol, Stafford, Winsford Cheshire and Manchester.

Four days later they were in New York, then London Ontario, then playing in Carnegie Hall before the start of a hectic tour round the United States and Canada.

The children were:

Akihiro Miura (11 years old)
Tae Lizima (11 years old)
Shizuka Nakamura (10 years old)
Kyoko Ueda (12 years old)
Akiko Ueda (7 years old)
Okikazu Yokoyama (7 years old)
Yumi Higuchi (6 years old)
Ayumi Ohashi (6 years old)
Tomoyuki Nomura (cello) 12 years old
Siezo Azuma (piano) (10 years old)

The little girl on the left here was one of my own Suzuki pupils, Penny Ballard.

The Suzuki children impressed everyone greatly, though we were apt to modify the approach, so that reading was introduced, in my case, after a year. Paul Rolland also had a lasting effect on many teachers in Great Britain.

But the impact of these first Suzuki children to this country cannot be overstated. Akihiro and Okikazu, along with one of the instructors Yoshiko Nakajima, stayed with my family so we heard them at close quarters.

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Following an afternoon workshop there followed an evening performance at which Akihiro, who had certainly not looked at the piece before hand, came on stage and performed, by memory of course, the last movement of the Bruch concerto brilliantly.

Who Else!!

Arnold Schoenberg Carol Ann Duffy - a Guardian photograph

Celebrating Times Past!

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For many of us, who have lived through better times, before the full force of Austerity took its toll, foolish tears are again hard to keep back.  In 1980 the small Staffordshire town of Rugeley had a week of music making involving the local Music Centre, the parish church of St Augustine and the three secondary schools, Aelfgar, Fairoak and Hagley Park. One of the many groups taking part was the Fairoak Victorian Ensemble, whose members were Dawn Mace, Sue Bradbury, Joy Houldcroft, Mrs Jill Bennett, Simon Copley, Timothy Harvey and Sue Tatlow.

There were a lot of children taking part, and although the aim of the music service was  essentially to provide as many children as possible with a love of music that they would continue to enjoy  into adulthood, it is heartwarming to realise that for a considerable minority of these students music would in time become a professional passion.  For many more, though, it has proved to be a rewarding and fulfilling pastime well into adulthood - and long may it continue.

Here is a full list of Performers                                Here is a copy of the Make May Music 1980 programme

Lesley Park who sadly died on August 16th 2017
Lesley Park at Stychfields in 1989

Lesley Park was one of our dearest friends and for many years a close colleague.  In 1989 Stafford Music Centre was celebrating the centenary of the County Council and we held two special Stychfield Hall concerts in period costume.
In the background are members of Lesley's splendid Music Centre choir.  Lesley is about to lead the audience in a performance of My Old Man said 'foller' the van complete with 'I followed on wiv me old cock linnet'.
She was always so enthusiastic and so fully committed to whatever she undertook and we shall miss her greatly.

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The very first photographin this photo gallery came with a request for any information that might help date the occasion and perhaps identify some of the Royal Academy of Music students.  Searching through old documents recently I came across a page in one of them where a photograph had clearly been removed - the photographs were not printed on to the pages but stuck on separately after printing.

front_cover: Mastersings, RAM 1935 : pages from the 1935 programme - pdf format, just click

Here it is, and it makes fascinating reading, the programme for the Royal Academy of Music's opera production for 1935, The Mastersingers, conducted by John Barbirolli.  A young Myers Foggin was one of the rehearsal accompanists.  My father sang the role of Ulrich Eisslinger.

As a string player, though, there is a special interest in seeing the names of all the orchestral players.  Robert Masters joined the Academy in 1933 at the age of sixteen and he is here sitting near the back of the seconds. At the back of the cellos notice a young Muriel Taylor.   Four years later, in 1939, Robert Masters would go on to found his piano quartet with Kinloch Anderson, Muriel Taylor and  Nannie Jamieson (1904-1990) on viola.  It was Nannie who set up the memorial fund when her young friend Muriel Taylor died in 1970 (the same year as John Barbirolli).  I did not know Robert Masters (1917 - 2014); but Nannie was the first Organising Secretary for  ESTA (UK) [EXTERNAL]  founded  just a year or two before I joined in 1976, and I sat in a number of happy meetings with her.

When our family moved to Glasgow in 1953 my father asked Barbirolli to recommend a teacher for me there; for of course before moving to the Halle John Barbirolli had himself been in Glasgow with the Scottish (National) Orchestra.   And so it was that I became the SNO leader Jean Rennie's only pupil!  She was rightly very popular with Glasgow audiences, not least perhaps because she was a local girl, from nearby Paisley.  I still remember Jean as soloist in the St Andrews Hall, playing the two Beethoven Romances with the orchestra.  And I still have and treasure much of her old music!

So thank you, Sir John.  Father never said how he came to know you.

There are so many names listed in this 1935 programme.  Do look, and hopefully  it will trigger a few more forgotten memories.  The classical music world is a small one, and if any two musicians meet they will almost certainly find they have shared memories or friends in common.


Dr Roy Wightman was born in Stafford but has strong Scottish family connections. He is a private teacher and educational author and was for many years a member of staff for the County of Staffordshire's school for talented young musicians and an A level examiner. He is also a pianist, organist, concert soloist and chamber recitalist (a member of the Chiarina Piano Trio). In the academic world, his research into the life and works of Karol Szymanowski has met with international acclaim, and his books include Szymanowski His Life and Work 1999, Routledge, Szymanowski on Music,1999, Toccata Press, Volume 1, 1902-1919 Szymanowski’s Correspondence and most recently Szymanowski’s ‘King Roger’, 2015, Boydell and Brewer, with its foreward by Sir Antonio Pappano. In 2016 he received the prize of the Karol Szymanowski Society for making the composer’s work better known outside Poland.

Yvonne Howard

Yvonne Howard

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Mike Revell (referred to in the Preface to A Rapture Suite)

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What a coincidence that just weeks after the Donauwellen Waltz arrangement for strings was added to the Stringsters pagethis photograph should turn up among some old documents I was browsing through - for this is the very ensemble for which the arrangement was made, back in 1991, when peripatetic string staff from my part of Staffordshire were touring local schools with a "Strings and Things" concert programme.  (Jeremy Dutton's "thing" is a Stroh violin!)   From left to right this happy  band reads:

Patrick Park, Jeremy Dutton, Jonathan Hills, Peter Foulkes, Julie Stubbs (cello), Celia Smith, Kerry Milan, Frances Lewis, Ron Large, Nigel Stubbs, Karen Smith, Alan Brown and Terry Carter.


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This photograph takes us back over a hundred years, and is included here now at a time when our theatres and concert halls are so desperately hit by the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

Freda Hooper and great-uncle Stanley were passionate Doncaster performers, among other things both members of "The Nobodies" troupe, a 1919 programme describing them as "The Original Hospital Entertainers".



I was taken aback recently to realise that it is now over ten years since the Affinities Violin / Piano Sonata was recorded -
at All Saints Church East Finchley, in July 2010, by recording engineer Michael Ponder.

And what a really splendid performance by Jane Faulkner and Steinway pianist Timothy Ravenscroft.
The work is highly demanding, especially the third movement Scherzando; but as you can hear from this recording it is played brilliantly, the music bubbling and sparkling with a delightful playfulness, which makes light of the technical demands.

I recall my dear departed teacher Louis Carus, writing from back in Glasgow to congratulate me on the work (finished in 2008) - but then adding 'why did you have to make it so hard?!'   I suspect it was this movement to which he was referring, with its challenging mix of 5/8 and 5/4 time signatures.   I remember my first ever experience of quintuple time, back in the 50s, when as a schoolboy I played my violin in a performance at Ayr of Britten's Let's Make an Opera - "swee -ee-eep - 4 - 5"  still going through my head!

For the  Scherzando tempo marking I had indicated a rather cautious quaver = 250, i.e. each 5/8 bar = 50; but for the recording  I can still hear Tim Ravenscroft saying to Jane "shall we give him it a bit faster?" and amazingly the music flies along with complete abandon at no less that 58.  I find it breath-taking and if ever a recording deserved to be named 'recording of the year' it should have been this!

<<Play the Scherzando>>

(For further information on the complete sonata,see the section here )

James Milan: Staffordshire Young Musician of the year 2020

JAMES MILAN <<See the winning performance on Youtube>>

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(Advertisement prepared for Scotthish Opera, Autumn 2021, with Yvonne in The Gondoliers and Utopia, Limited)

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In 1952 Patricia was in her school production of The Mikado.
The school was Eastwood Senior Seoondary, at Williamwood near Glasgow, their music teacher Peter Mooney, who would later move to Hamilton Academy and take on the conductorship of the Glasgow Phoenix Choir, previously Sir Hugh Robertson's Glasgow Orpheus Choir.
I wonder how many state schools today could even imagine taking on such an ambitious project; but then, the value and importance of the arts in education was rather better appreciated than in today's rather Philistine environment, to quote Julian Barnes!

Patrticia's love of music enriched her whole life, and one of her last operas was to see Yvonne Howard as Katisha in ENO's splendid Nov. 2019 Coliseum performance.  Patricia is on this 1952 photograph, which alone gives some idea of what a great production it was: but she is perhaps more easily recognised in the photograph which shows the choir in 1954, under their conductor Peter Mooney.

Claire, Scott, Kerry, 20221129, RCS

Claire O'Reilly, Scott Mitchell and me in Novembeer 2022 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
where Bob Whitney recorded the Caledonia My Country songs.

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St Mary's Collegiate Church, Stafford
Coffee Concert, 17th June 2023

Patrick Park and me with John Savage at the keyboard

Music for Two Violins

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Anne-Mauraide Hamilton with Patricia and me in October 2000

In 2009 and I sent Anne-Mauraide a copy of my Affinities violin/piano sonata and out of the blue back came a splendid recording made at her home in Stow Gardens Manchester with the brilliant pianist Roderick Barrand.  Here, to remember Anne-Mauraide and her great playing, is their performance of the sonata's last movement, Rondo  "The Bee-sting Waltz".

<<Annemauraide and Roddy playing Affinities Rondo>>