Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Get with the Program!

It's a while back now but I have finally got around to telling a bit about an event I attended last week.   It was Friday night and I had got myself double booked, a rehearsal with my Jazz/Blues band and a reunion of the schools wind band and youth orchestra I played with.   The reunion was mostly concentrated on players from the 80s and 90s and I was very much a 70s player, but was determined to be there anyway.

As I expected apart from a tutor who conducted the band from around 1975 on I think was the eldest there, however there were a few who I overlapped with.   I was very fortunate that in the 1970s music was a priority in Croydon, so I received first class teaching and an instrument on loan, all without any cost to my parents.   I was also fortunate in my choice of instrument as when I started learning there was only one other tuba player in Croydon schools and he was about to leave.   This meant that I had the opportunity to play at a higher standard than I really had any right to quite early.

As there was a bit of interest I have scanned my copy of the program from the inaugural concert of the Croydon Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.   The front cover is notable for things, the autograph there is that of Sir Arthur Bliss the composer of"Things to Come" and the Master of the Queen's Musick.  He and his wife happened to be sitting directly in front of my parents so Mum grabbed the chance and got him to sign her program.

The other notable thing is the price ~ 10p these day a program like this ( heavy bound quality print A4 ) would cost more like £2:00 -£3:00.   But then only a couple of years earlier and that would have been 2 shillings!

There were of course several interesting things that came up at the reunion, not least that I have changed rather a lot since I was playing in CYPO, yet nobody made anything of my transition.   Indeed it was with a great deal of (I hope well hidden) glee that I heard my self referred to simply as a "tall blond"

If you click and enlarge this picture you can see me behind my tuba, but you would be hard pressed to recognise me from the woman I have grown up to become.

I am sure that these old programs are fascinating to anyone who was there, but to others may seem a little "dry" so a little context might help.   The Fairfield Hall itself is the concert hall part of the Fairfield Halls, and complex including galleries and the Ashcroft theater in central Croydon.   Opened in 1962 it still felt very new in 1973 and with a sell out audience of around 1,800 it can have a great atmosphere.   Even now it is recognised as a prestigious venue with a good acoustic.

Arthur Davison lived locally and was a recognised working conductor, although he never hit the big time with any major professional orchestras he regularly worked with the RPO, and made several quite successful recordings. A few years later he was to be awarded the CBE for his services to youth music.  Lady Evelyn Barbirolli was the widow of Sir John Barbirolli they were one of the leading couples in English music and at this time she was very much a "Grande Dame", we were very privileged to have a soloist of this quality and reputation work with us.

Interestingly one of our oboe players at that concert Paul Goodwin, later went on to be a world recognised soloist and a leading light of early music in his own right.

Most if the players in that inaugural concert went on to work in music, some with greater success than others.   Certainly amongst our number there are conductors, soloists, chamber musicians, publishers,members of leading international orchestras, teachers and even the odd gigging tuba player.

It was only about eighteen months after this concert that we made our first broadcast, as the Youth Orchestra in BBC Radio Three's series "Great Orchestras of the World".

Looking at these old programs has brought back so many memories, and there are many stories from that time that I could relate, but I will try to resist that temptation.   However I do rather hope that somebody will step up and organise another reunion, only this time include all us old folks as well.

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