Everyone will have different memories and a different perspective on the role of music at school but even those without any inclination to be a singer or instrumentalist couldn't fail to be moved by the role it played at LHS. Those of us who were at school during Miss James' era will never forget filing out of the last assembly of each term to her wonderful rendition of the RAF March on her magnificent grand piano. It made me feel proud to be a pupil at our school and almost regretful that it signalled the start of school holidays (though not for long!)
The Christmas at LHS page tells of the Carol Service and the haunting 'Past Three O' Clock', every assembly always included a piece of music that we sat and listened to, while sitting cross-legged on the hall floor, we sang hymns whether we were musical or not, but for those who enjoyed participating there was the Choir and the Orchestra.
Jo Parker (LHS 1965 - 72) reminded me of the wonderful Harvest Festivals we had and of Miss James saying that if every girl just brought one apple then we'd have 650 apples to give away. I remember the boxes of food which we took to old folks' homes after the Harvest Festival. I volunteered to take the box for Beechlands in Alderton Hill as my Mum was the cook there.
Jo also reminded me of the glorious descants which were sung to Christmas Carols. See the Christmas page here.
The choir was made all the more enjoyable by joining with the boys from Bancrofts School to make the Combined Choir and there are some programmes below, but thanks to Christine's research, and the kind permission of its members, I am taking this opportunity to include some information about a group whose existence was hitherto unknown to me - The Crofton Singers (links to their website).
On our Crofton Singers page there is information on the birth of the Crofton Singers in the words of composer, Raymond Warren, the first conductor of the Crofton Singers and godfather of its current Musical Director, Simon Pusey MA, ARCO (reproduced with kind permission)
The same page also includes the memories of Diane Collinson who is a former pupil of LHS and a Crofton Singer. Diane was at school around the time Miss James first arrived and remembers the upheaval this caused in the prioritisation of music at the school.
7th May 1959
The choir on the radio
1966 and 1968
1967 St Martins
Christmas school concert prog 1969
prog cover choir 1969
choir prog contents 1969
Programmes for the Combined Choir concerts. These will enlarge into a pop-up page when clicked
In December 1970 the school performed a production of Britten's Noye's Fludde.
Noye’s Fludde School performance 3 December 1970
(We have the ticket(above) thanks to Mary Lewis(nee Redfern) and the following reports from the 1970/71 school magazine.)
Chants of ”Kyrie Eleison” heralded the arrival of rats, mice, dogs and birds taking the place of the more conventional school performers in the past. The school orchestra ,sixth form singers and numerous well - disguised first, second and third years, with the invaluable aid of the Music and English staff, performed the Benjamin Britten opera “Noye’s Fludde” which proved to be a great success. The male parts were played by Bancrofts pupils and staff, without whom the production would have been impossible.
The performance seemed at first to be rather ambitious for a school production, but both the orchestra and singers coped extremely well with the difficult score and gave a thoroughly enjoyable and praiseworthy performance. Noye himself was the mainstay of the production and his singing was especially admirable.
Behind the scenes the operations went without a hitch and, despite original reluctance, God was finally coaxed to speak when and where His Voice was required.
The costumes were designed and the material dyed by Philippa Bradshaw with the help of the Art and Craft Department, and were made up by members of the sixth form. These were an ingenious and colourful asset to the highly skilled performance.
The fifty animal heads were all designed and constructed by the Art and Craft staff, as was the ark and all the heavenly bodies. They were well rewarded after their time-consuming efforts as the properties, and particularly the masks, looked extremely effective.
After so many hours of strenuous rehearsals, the performance and cast, and perhaps the most touching memento ,were the tears of some of the animals when the whole things was over. Wendy Gingell and Carol Makepeace Upper VI A
We were allowed to see the beginning in rehearsals , but not now. The music throbs and Mr Noye strides up slowly. It is a lovely sight, the angels are wearing lovely white dresses and wings with silver glitter. It reflects the coloured lights, red, blue and green. A golden tree on the side with green and turquoise tissue leaves. Ah! It is our turn. We queue up as silently as possible. When we hear the right music we stamp out the rhythm. The jumpers we are wearing are starting to get unbearably hot. I nervously whisper to my partner
“Is my make - up ok?”
Now we have to go on.
“Kyr….” We start to sing. Up the steps and into the ark. Time to squash in. There is just about enough room for our cardboard heads to peep through. It is so stuffy. My leotard is clinging to me and I am so sticky. Soon the violins play swirling music and the wind machine is being turned. Lights dim and there are flashes that represent lightening. It is just like a storm - exciting. When it is time to get out, it is a struggle as our legs have gone to sleep! We are all rather thankful to get out. Beverly Webb 1 Alpha
Angela Jones (LHS 1959 - 1966) remembers her experiences of music at school:
"I was elected as one of the conductors of the combined choirs when we performed in St.Martins and St.Barts. I absolutely loved that. Miss James seemed to disapprove of me when I was elected to conduct and also when I passed exams fairly easily without too much work. I learnt guitar with Robert Spencer which has stood me in good stead ever since. I took part in a production of Chekhov's ‘The Seagull’ as Masha directed by Miss Wolff (who I hear is still in this world) and her lovely Russian father, who had known Stanislavsky, came to a rehearsal, I think in a wheelchair - Wow! in retrospect, if I remember it correctly"
The following is taken from the School magazine of 1946 and refers to a recording made by the Combined Choirs for the BBC (click to enlarge the pages)
The music section of the 1967/68 school magazine reported the concert when "Mr Railton conducted Haydn's choral work 'The Nelson Mass' with orchestral accompaniment. In this concert the juniors sang 'The Lady of Shalott'." I, and several members of the LHS facebook page, remember singing in this concert with the wonderful John Railton. During the afternoon rehearsal he worked tirelessly to bring out every possible nuance in the music. It was a very educational experience and highly enjoyable too. He lost his left arm to cancer at a relatively young age but it didn’t prevent him from being a superb conductor. He died in 2013 aged 83. His obituary can be found here.
The Haydn 'Nelson' Mass and the Lady of Shalott
John Railton, MBE, FRAM 1930 - 2013
These images will enlarge into a pop-up window when clicked and then zoom in wherever you click on the image
In 1953 the Combined Choirs performed for a recording of Humperdinck's version of Hansel and Gretel. The recording was made in 1953 at London's Kingsway Hall and conducted by Herbert von Karajan, no less! Soloists were Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Elisabeth Grummer and they were accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra
The recording below is not mine but has been embedded from YouTube.
Hänsel : Elisabeth Grümmer Gretel : Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Die Knusperhexe : Else Schürhoff Peter, Besenbinder : Josef Metternich Gertrud, sein Weib : Maria von Ilosvay Sandmännchen : Anny Felbermayer Taumännchen : Anny Felbermayer Choir of Loughton High School for Girls Choir of Bancroft's School
Philharmonia Orchestra Herbert von Karajan Studio recording, London, 27, 29 & 30. VI & 1-2.VII. 1953
I remember doing the lighting for Noye's Fludde, helping Anne Cropper. To make the lighning effects for the storm we had to flash the switches and use the dimmer sliders to alter the lighting levels. The casings for all this were bare metal and the sliders sent huge blue sparks out through the slots. Scary but fun. Health and safety? What's that? Sue Capes
In the 1980 school magazine, the following item appeared:
HANSEL AND GRETEL - Those who were at school in 1953, particularly members of the choir, may be interested to know that the H.M.V. recording of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" has just been reissued. This is the recording under Herbert von Karajan, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Gretel, in which the children's chorus was provided by the combined choirs of Bancroft's and Loughton County High School.
The recording was first reviewed by 'Gramophone' magazine in January 1954, and was presumably made in 1953. The November 1978 'Gramophone' refers to "this glorious 25-year-old set ....almost pure joy from beginning to end".