Friday, 31 August 2012

Musical Moments - Sharing Memories

ILorine McGinnis Schulze at http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/p/sharing-memories.html is asking us to Share Memories.  This week's theme is Music.


I am in an  all singing/dancing chorus, swirling my skirts,  in a  London West End show  - such as Carousel, Oklahoma, West Side Story or 42nd Street .......

But It Was All One of My Wildest Dreams!  

Back to reality! Playing the triangle in my infant school percussion group  is my earliest musical memory.  I was not too pleased at being given  this instrument.  Like everyone else, I wanted the favourite choice  - the sleigh bells. 

My first stage performance  was at a Brownie's concert when, clutching our teddies,  we sang "The Teddy Bear's Picnic". 
 
 
 
 
In my primary school days,  every Wednesday afternoon we gathered in the hall for community singing and I learnt such patriotic songs as The British Grenadiers, Hearts of Oak, The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, Bluebells of Scotland and my favourite Men of Harlech, sung with much gusto.  Sea shanties were also popular as we swung from side to side to sing What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?   Are these now all forgotten,  as I doubt that children are familiar with them today? 

 
I began learning the piano at the age of eight, largely because it was a sore point with my mother that her older sister and much younger sister learnt, but she missed out.   In my school days, there was no opportunity to learn other instruments, as there is now.   I did have a go at teaching myself the recorder, but the dog hated it and whined throughout my attempts, so I never got very far!   I would have loved to go to dancing classes, but that was not to be. 

My parents and aunt were the people I have to thank for making music so much a  part of my life from an early age, introducing me to musicals, operetta and ballet (my most  favourite art form).  I was lucky to grow up in Blackpool, Lancashire which  had regular touring companies to the Opera House and Grand Theatre.  

Coppelia
I loved The Gypsy Baron and wanted  a gypsy costume and  headdress with long coloured ribbons  - the nearest I got was full skirt  trimmed with rows of  ric rac.  My first ballet was Coppelia - an ideal choice for a little girl with the feisty heroine in a lovely pale blue tutu,  the handsome hero - and more gypsy dances.  

 In my teens, my mother took me to see "Sleeping Beauty" and I was mesmerised by the magic of it - from the orchestral overture,  the transforming scenery, the costumes and of course the dancing.  "La Boheme" was the first grand opera I saw and my hanky was well and truly soaked as I wept at the death of Mimi.  Ditto seeing Carmen and La Traviata. 


We weren't a particularly musical family, but my mother sang in the Townswomen's Guild Choir and my father sang in the church choir.  Radio & TV  programmes such as "Melodies for You, 100 Best Tunes, Friday Night is Music Night  and Songs of Praise  - were regulars we listened  to or watched.

Singing in a choir (school, church, community)  has been a key activity throughout my life from primary school days onwards, whether it was folk songs from round the world, spirituals, carols, sacred music, opera and operetta choruses,   or songs from the shows - musical tastes that still mean a lot to me today. I was very happy to be a chorus girl, with no pretensions to be a soloist - I knew my limitations!  It is a marvellous form of music making, whatever your age, a great creator of the "feel good factor",  and there is nothing to beat singing with the full blooded accompaniment of an an orchestra or  organ.   



High school introduced me to Gilbert & Sullivan  and I was hooked, singing in most of the operas over the years.  At University, I joined the  Savoy Opera Group and the annual G & S performances were the highlight of my years there - I loved taking part in them - the dressing up (the girls made their own costumes), the singing and some dancing. 


In "Yeoman of the Guard"

In "Pirates of Penzance".
 
My other musical highlight was a few years ago when I  was  one of over a 1000 singers, plus orchestra and organ  in a "Come and Sing" performance of "The Messiah"  in the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London - an exhilarating. moving  and unforgettable experience in front of a packed 4000 audience.  I was on a high,  walking back to our hotel.   

I have now decided it is time  to "retire" my voice, but music still plays an important part in my life.  "Classic FM" is my favoured radio channel and a natural accompaniment to being at the computer.   But the musical moments and memories live on. 

In "HMS Pinafore"
  
 
Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like music has been a big part of your life as well as a great pleasure Susan. I'm always envious of people who can sing.

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