About / Famous Visitors
Since its formation in 1949, Redbridge Music Society has been fortunate to welcome many internationally famous people from the music world – conductors, performing musicians, composers, musicologists, music administrators and others – to its doors as performers, presenters or as guests to the society. In the early 1980s Colin Pryke and Derek Price (respectively the Chairman and Secretary of the society at that time) gave an illustrated presentation to members about the society’s distinguished visitors up until that time.
Since then there have been many more: brief biographical details of some of these visitors (many from Colin Pryke’s archives) are outlined below.
Vernon Handley - Conductor
Vernon Handley (1930 – 2008) visited Redbridge Music Society on 7th March 1989. He was known to all as ‘Tod’ Handley and despite the ‘Nod for Tod’ campaign started in 2003 he never received the knighthood that many felt he so richly deserved.
He was unique amongst front rank conductors in that he unashamedly championed British repertoire (in particular the music of Sir Arnold Bax) before that of all other countries. Recognised as Sir Adrian Boult’s protégé he held steadfastly to two principles, which might have proved detrimental to a successful career: an undemonstrative stick technique and an ‘unfashionable’ repertoire.
Handley made recordings that brought much of the unfashionable repertoire into fashion and British music owes him a great debt.
When he visited our society his great respect and affection for Sir Adrian Boult was made very clear. Handley was first to conduct many of the works of Vaughan Williams to be released on the then new medium of CD. Bearing this in mind, Colin Pryke, who was interviewing him at the time of his visit, suggested that these recording would eventually replace those of Boult. “Replace?” Handley exclaimed, “No, stand alongside!” Very soon the recordings of Boult were re-issued on the new CD medium and they then stood alongside those of Vernon Handley.
He was outright winner three times of the Gramophone Record of the Year, as well as runner up twice and nominated 8 times. At the Gramophone Awards of 2003 he was awarded a Special Award for services to British Music. He won the BPI Classical award twice and his recording of Walton’s First Symphony was declared ‘Collectors Choice’ in Classic CD. He won a Grand Prix du Disque for a recording of French repertoire with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
In 1983 the London Philharmonic Orchestra made Vernon Handley their Associate Conductor in recognition of his long relationship with the orchestra. He was Chief Conductor/Chief Guest Conductor of many orchestras including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. In addition, Vernon Handley was Conductor Emeritus of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Conductor Laureate of the Ulster Orchestra and Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He was created Honorary Fellow of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1990 and was elected an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford in 1999. Vernon Handley was appointed Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, June 2004.
He probably recorded, performed and broadcast more British music than any other conductor living. In some 160 discs, over 90 are of British musi , including 87 works which had not been recorded before. He gave over 100 premieres and in his recorded output are all the symphonies of Bax, Vaughan Williams, Stanford, Malcolm Arnold and Robert Simpson, all the major works of Elgar and the whole of Moeran’s orchestral music.
He recorded a complete cycle of symphonies by Sir Arnold Bax, which was chosen as one of his 100 Greatest Recordings by Gramophone’s outgoing Editor, James Jolly, in December 2005. In May 2007 he was the recipient of only the second Lifetime Achievement Award to be given by the Classical Brits.
Despite many years of illness and difficulties, Handley remained active almost to the end, recording Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Natalie Clein and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for EMI Classics and conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in its annual Proms season in August 2008.
Sir Charles Groves - Conductor
Sir Charles Groves (1915 – 1992) visited the society in our early ‘Goodmayes’ days. The audience remembered him as an extremely affable and friendly man who spoke particularly well and who played some interesting recorded illustrations. The photograph was taken at his visit to the Society
He was an English conductor respected for his breadth of repertoire and known for his support of contemporary composers and encouragement of young conductors and musicians.
In the 1970s he was a regular conductor at the last night of the Proms but it was with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra that he was particularly associated and with whom he made most of his recordings
After studying at the Royal College of Music he started his professional career as a freelance accompanist, later moving on to conduct the BBC Northern Orchestra in its Manchester studios. He conducted the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, directed the Welsh National Opera and then became well known for his long and distinguished tenure directing the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, raising the standard of the orchestra and taking them on highly acclaimed tours abroad.
Groves was known for adding adventurous new works to the repertory of his orchestras. Composer Oliver Knussen said, “He managed to get the respect of the players and the affection of performers. He had an exemplary attitude and track record with regard to contemporary music”. Amongst the works that Groves premièred are those of included works by Lennox Berkeley, Jonathan Harvey, Daniel Jones, John McCabe, Edwin Roxburgh, Edmund Rubbra and Hugh Wood.
Groves received many honours for his work, including the OBE in (1958), CBE in (1968) and a knighthood in 1973. He died following a heart attack in London in 1992. There is a memorial stone to his memory in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Sir Colin Davis - Conductor
The visit to Redbridge Music Society in the 1980s of the distinguished English conductor Sir Colin Davis (1927 – 2013) was one of our most memorable events.
His repertoire was broad, but among the composers with whom he was particularly associated were Mozart, Elgar, Sibelius, Stravinsky and especially Berlioz and Tippett. He had an extensive discography and made of 300 recordings.
For over 25 years Davis inspired a whole generation of young conductors as International Chair of Conducting Studies at the Royal Academy of Music. He is perhaps best known for his long and fruitful association with the London Symphony Orchestra being principal conductor for many years and in later years its president.
Sir Colin Davis with David Cairns
Colin Davis was born in 1927 in Weybridge, Surrey, and clearly remembered the moment he decided to make music his life. He said, “I was 13 or 14 at the time and the performance was of Beethoven’s 8th Symphony. Doors were suddenly opened. I became totally involved, even obsessed by music”
He studied clarinet at the Royal College of Music, but was intent on becoming a conductor. After early struggles as a freelance conductor from 1949 to 1957, he first found fame in 1959 when he stood in for an indisposed Otto Klemperer in a performance of Don Giovanni at the Royal Festival Hall in 1959. He gained a series of appointments with orchestras including the BBC Scottish Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra but it was with the London Symphony Orchestra that he formed a long and fruitful association – for over 50 years in fact, including over ten years as its principal conductor. He also held the musical directorships of Sadler’s Wells Opera and the Royal Opera House, where he was principal conductor for over fifteen years. His guest conductorships included the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Dresden Staatskapelle, among many others. As a teacher, Davis held posts at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and the Carl Maria von Weber High School of Music in Dresden.
He made his first gramophone recordings in 1958, and his discography built up in the succeeding five decades is extensive, with a large number of studio recordings for Philips Records and RCA and an extensive catalogue of live recordings for the London Symphony Orchestra’s own label. His 1961 Beethoven 7th Symphony for EMI, his revelatory1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah with pared-down forces for the Philips label and his 1982 set of Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphonies also for Philips are examples of his best known recordings.
In his early years Davis was known as being difficult and short-tempered but in later years this completely changed, giving way to a mature, calm and reflective personality on the podium. He was appointed CBE in 1965 and knighted in 1980. After his wife’s death in 2010, his health declined rapidly and he died in London in April 2013 after a short illness.
Sir Peter Pears - Tenor
In the early 1980’s we had a visit from the distinguished English tenor Sir Peter Pears (1910 – 1986). Although still suffering the effects of his recent stroke he gave a fascinating talk, illustrated with many recordings.
Throughout his career he was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten with whom he co-founded of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1947 and the Britten-Pears School in 1972.
His voice had a distinctive, idiosyncratic quality that was not to all tastes, but such was his skill and musicianship that he could use the voice to expressive effect in many styles of music.
Peter Pears was born in Farnham on 22 June 1910 and began to develop his singing and acting talents during his school days at Lancing College. After an abortive year at Oxford he began his professional career with the BBC Singers in 1934. In 1937 he met the composer Benjamin Britten and they embarked on a personal and creative relationship that was to be lifelong. Pears and Britten shared three years in America from spring 1939 before returning home in 1942. Pears at once began to develop his career as a soloist, making his operatic debut in The Tales of Hoffman before going on to create the title role in Britten’s Peter Grimes in 1945.
For the following three decades Pears was a key source of inspiration for Britten’s music and an essential vehicle for the composer’s vocal and operatic writing. Britten regarded him as the ‘greatest artist that ever was’, and dedicated several works to him, including Death in Venice, his operatic swansong, in which Pears created the role of Aschenbach. Pears also pursued an independent career, making a name in Lieder, English song and oratorio, and especially as the evangelist in Bach’s Passions. His other important contributions to British musical life included teaching, commissioning new music and collaborating with Britten and others in the founding of the English Opera Group and the establishment of the Aldeburgh Festival and, in 1972, the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies.
Pears’s singing career continued for four years after Britten’s death in 1976. Following a stroke in December 1980, he continued to dedicate much of his time and creative energy to the life of the Britten-Pears School, and died in Aldeburgh on 3 April 1986.
George Lloyd - Composer
On 17th October 1995 Redbridge Music Society was particularly privileged to hear a fascinating illustrated talk given by the British composer George Lloyd (1913 – 1986) on his life and work. He was a modest and unassuming man, very willing on that evening to enthusiastically engage in conversation with the members of the public attending his talk.
Lloyd was born into a musical family in Cornwall in 1913 and over the span of his life his music underwent a number of phases: recognition (in his early years), rejection (in his middle years) and then recognition again (in his later years). His music was unashamedly late-Romantic – tuneful, melodious and harmonious. Lloyd had little time for 12-tone 20th Century music; “I thought it was a cock-eyed idea that produced horrible sounds; it made composers forget how to sing” he said.
Lloyd started composing early in his life and by the age of 24 was regarded as a talented young composer who had composed (and had publicly performed) three symphonies and two operas (Iernin and The Serf – performed respectively at the Lyceum and Covent Garden, London); quite an achievement for a young man who had missed much early schooling because of heart trouble (rheumatic fever). Lloyd studied violin with Albert Sammons, composition with Harry Farjeon and later attended Trinity College of Music.
World War II, however, put a firm block on the progress of Lloyd’s musical career. He joined the Royal Marines as a bandsman and served as a gunner (on HMS Trinidad) on the notorious and extremely dangerous Arctic convoys. In 1942 his ship was blown up and Lloyd – one of the few survivors – witnessed many of his shipmates drown in fuel oil .He was badly traumatised and shell-shocked and eventually suffered a complete breakdown. After the war he spent several years convalescing in Switzerland and with the devoted care and support of his Swiss wife Nancy, Lloyd began to slowly compose again, completing his fourth symphony in 1946 and his fifth symphony in 1948. Although still ill, he was commissioned to write a third opera John Socman (about a soldier returning from the Battle of Agincourt) for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Largely due to internal disagreements between the conductor and producer, the badly performed premier (given by the Carl Rosa Opera Company) and subsequent tour performances received mixed reviews and this, coupled with the death of Lloyd’s father (William Lloyd – who had provided the librettos for all three of George Lloyd’s operas), made Lloyd’s health deteriorate even further.
In 1952 he withdrew from the musical world to an obscure small-holding in Dorset where he worked for 20 years as a market gardener growing carnations and mushrooms. He continued to compose – albeit intermittently – rising at about 4:30 am and composing for about three hours before the start of the working horticultural day. For another seventeen years Lloyd’s music was not in vogue, and although during this time he produced three more symphonies and a piano concerto (called Scapegoat), he had major difficulties in getting his works performed; in fact many of the scores he sent to the BBC were rejected and returned to him often without comment.
Although Lloyd felt very disillusioned at this time, he nevertheless had some supporters. The conductors Sir Charles Groves and Edward Downes championed his compositions, the renowned pianist John Ogden (a past president of Redbridge Music Society) performed Lloyd’s Scapegoat piano concerto (written for Ogden) in 1969 and later began to champion Lloyd’s other three piano concertos. Lloyd began to compose full-time again in 1973; his eighth symphony was broadcast in 1978 and in 1981 his sixth symphony was performed at the Albert Hall Proms and in the same year Lyrita Records recorded three of his symphonies with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Edward Downes.. These events marked the beginning of the much deserved Indian Summer of George Lloyd’s musical career. The American record company, Albany Records, commissioned Lloyd for further works and recorded many of these with Lloyd conducting. At long last George Lloyd was back in vogue. He wrote solo piano works such as The Lily-leaf and the Grasshopper, a violin sonata, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, four works for brass band and more symphonies (there were twelve symphonies in all). In 1983 his large choral work The Vigil of Venus (based on the text of an anonymous Latin poem Pervigilium Veneris) was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall, London, with the orchestra and chorus of Welsh National Opera, Lloyd conducting. This was followed by a commissioned choral work, his Symphonic Mass, which was premiered in 1993 at the Brighton Festival. Both works were very well received. Sadly, in 1997 Lloyd suffered further heart trouble and he died in London in July 1998 at the age of 85 just three weeks after completing his Requiem.
Lloyd’s compositions may be romantic and conservative, but they are never mere pastiches of the 19th Century musical style – many people find his works to be fresh and colourful and nearly all his works are hallmarked with Lloyd’s original and individual style. Lloyd said “I write what I have to write” and it did not matter in any way to him who he was compared with. If you are new to Lloyd’s music, listen to his haunting fourth symphony, his genial fifth symphony, his ‘refined’ three-movement sixth symphony or his exuberant and eclectic The Vigil of Venus – you will not be disappointed!
Gerald Moore - Piano accompanist
In 1955 the founder and then Secretary of our music society, Stanley Robertson, persuaded the English pianist and accompanist Gerald Moore (1899 – 1987) to become the President of our music society. However, it was not until 1958 that he first visited us due to his heavy international schedule; we knew that his visits would not be frequent.
Moore accompanied many of the world’s most famous singers such as Elizabeth Schumann, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Ángeles and Hans Hotter but it was with the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau that he was particularly associated with.
He wrote and lectured extensively on musical topics and did much to raise the status of accompanist from a subservient role to that of an equal artistic partner,
Moore was born in Watford, England, in 1899 but received most of his musical education in Toronto, Canada, to which country his family emigrated when he was a child, and where he was an organist at St Thomas’ Church, Huron Street, in Toronto. He returned to London to resume his musical studies and the then director of the Guildhall School of Music, Landon Ronald, on hearing Moore play at a recital advised him to pursue a career as an accompanist.
Past Chairman of the society, Colin Pryke, attended one of Moore’s famous lecture recitals “The Unashamed Accompanist” at Woodford and made the casual remark to him that if there were a new singer that Gerald Moore was accompanying then it is likely there would be a good chance that the singer was talented. “It is true now”, he said, “but in the old days I would play for anyone who would pay me.” Moore credited much of his early success as an accompanist to a five-year partnership with the tenor John Coates, who, Moore says, turned him from an indifferent accompanist into one who was sensitive to the music and the soloist, and an equal partner in performance. Moore, then aged 25, was engaged by Coates almost by chance when his usual accompanist Berkeley Mason was unavailable. Coates was one singer from Gerald Moore’s early career whose records I would have been safe in buying.
He accompanied notable instrumentalists such as Pablo Casals and the child prodigy Josef Hassid, but is perhaps best remembered for his work with singers, with notable partnerships including Elena Gerhardt, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Victoria de los Ángeles, Elisabeth Schumann, and Kathleen Ferrier. He had a particular affinity for the art song (lieder) repertoire. He also gave lectures on stage and radio and wrote about music, publishing his much-admired memoir Am I Too Loud?: Memoirs of An Accompanist (1962) and two other volumes of autobiography: Farewell Recital: Further Memoirs (1978) and Furthermoore (1983).
As an accompanist, Gerald Moore is credited with doing much to raise the status of accompanist from a subservient role to that of an equal artistic partner, in part through his influential 1943 book The Unashamed Accompanist. Fischer-Dieskau wrote in his introduction to the German edition of the book that “there is no more of that pale shadow at the keyboard, he is always an equal with his partner” and “it is quite apparent how new and unique the type of accompanist is which he represents,” and Moore jealously protected this status of his art, complaining when accompanists he admired were not given billing in concert. One of his favourite saying was “The accompanist provides half the performances however that does not mean that he walks off with half the fee.”
Moore retired from public performances in 1967, with a farewell concert in which he accompanied three of the singers with whom he was long associated: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,Victoria de los Ángeles and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. This famed concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall concluded with Moore playing alone – he chose to play an arrangement for solo piano of Schubert’s An die Musik. His first recording was made in 1921 and his last (studio) recording in 1975 – a span of 54 years.
Moore was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1954. He died in Penn, Buckinghamshire, in 1987.
John Ogden - Pianist
In his short period as President in the late 1980s pianist John Ogdon (1937 – 1989) visited the Redbridge Music Society twice. Once to give a memorable recital including works by Beethoven, Liszt and Busoni, and a second time to accompany his wife, Brenda Lucas, who played for us that evening. He was in the audience and was full of admiration for her performance.
Ogdon was an extremely gifted pianist and composer, possessing a phenomenal memory and an amazing technique. The last 15 years of his career were blighted with mental illness and although this did not stop him from recording or playing, his concert appearances were unpredictable.
He was an extremely talented musician whose life was indeed troubled, sad and yet glorious.
John Ogdon was born in Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, in 1937 and studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music between 1953 and 1957 under Claude Biggs. His fellow students at the time included Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr. With them he helped form the New Music Manchester Group dedicated to performing serial and other modern music. After leaving college he studied with pianists Denis Matthews, Myra Hess and Egon Petri.
ln 1958, Ogdon made his London debut playing the Busoni Piano Concerto at the Proms. He came to international attention when he won the Liszt prize in Budapest in 1961 and the first prize in the 1962 Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition jointly with Vladimir Ashkenazy. He could play most pieces by sight, had a formidable memory and a superb technique. He also composed, writing more than 200 works – many of these were for piano but included operas, songs and chamber music.
An indication of Ogdon’s brilliant sight-reading ability was when composer Peter Maxwell Davies found a copy of Sorabji’s huge four-hour work – Opus Clavicembalisticum – in a second-hand shop. This is one of most difficult and demanding works ever conceived for piano and Ogdon promptly played the whole work at sight. He performed the work twice and made a studio recording of it towards the end of his life .
Although physically very healthy, he suffered a severe mental breakdown in 1973, manic depression (bipolar disorder) being the eventual diagnosis. It was a condition he may have inherited from his father who had also suffered from severe psychotic episodes. He spent some time in London’s Maudsley Hospital, playing the hospital piano daily.
The life of the Ogdons changed from a moneyed existence of lavish partying – often living beyond their means – to one of near-poverty although eventually help with living accommodation and access to a grand piano was made available by John Paul Getty Jr. John Ogden died in August 1989 from pneumonia, brought on by an undiagnosed diabetes, aged just 52
Larry Adler - Harmonica
Larry Adler (1914 – 2001) was one of the world’s most famous and skilled harmonica players and the possessor of an outsized personality.He visited Redbridge Music Society on 8th October 1992 and although he did not perform that evening (he was recovering from illness at the time) he gave a very amusing and witty illustrated talk to us.
Adler helped considerably to raise the status of the harmonica (along with Tommy Reilly) and had works written for him by major composers such as Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Malcolm Arnold. He was equally at home in ‘classical’ ,jazz and popular music and recorded prolifically in these genres.
He lived most of life in London in self-imposed exile after he and other left-leaning performers were blacklisted during the anti-communist McCarthy frenzy that overtook America in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Lawrence “Larry” Adler was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA in 1914. (Apparently his surname should have been Zelakovitch, but his grandfather changed it to Adler as he was sick of being the last to be called in US Immigration queues!). He taught himself the harmonica – or “mouth organ” as he always insisted on calling the instrument – at which he was widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most skilled players.
When he visited Redbridge Music Society it was obvious from the moment he entered the room that here was a man of great character. He was dressed in a modern Japanese designer suit, which he had acquired during a recent visit to Japan. Although he had been ill and therefore did not feel able to play his harmonica, he brought with him a plethora of recordings in three formats – CD, cassette tapes and vinyl LPs – placed them on the table and said “I will tell you what I want when I get to the right point”. Colin Pryke, who was operating the playing equipment that evening, commented that he found this a particularly daunting prospect!
He was one of the first harmonica players to play major works written for the instrument and many composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold, Darius Milhaud and Arthur Benjamin composed works for him. During his talk he played recorded examples of some of these works, including the Romance in D-flat major for harmonica and orchestra (1951), which was the work Vaughan Williams, had written for him.
At his visit to us he expressed his deep appreciation for his fellow American George Gershwin. He had met Gershwin when, at the age of sixteen, he was playing an audition for conductor Paul Whiteman. When asked to play ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, knowing that it was a little too difficult for him, Adler said “I do not like Rhapsody in Blue”. Whiteman turned to another occupant of the room and said “What do you think about that George – he does not like Rhapsody in Blue.” The ‘George’ was indeed Gershwin himself!
Larry Adler was also a composer and the 1953 film Genevieve brought him an Oscar nomination for his work on the soundtrack (his name was originally kept off the credits in the USA due to McCarthy blacklisting). During the later stage of his career he was known for his collaborations with popular musicians Sting, Elton John, Kate Bush, and Cerys Matthews (with whom he made his last recording “Young at Heart”)
Adler was a very witty and knowledgeable man. He counted many famous people as his friends and in his heyday he mixed with likes of Einstein, Fred Astaire, Rachmaninov, Ingrid Bergman and even Al Capone!. A keen tennis player, he once played mixed doubles with Greta Garbo, Salvador Dali, and Charlie Chaplin. (He and Chaplin won),
He moved to London in 1949 – as an act self-imposed exile after his USA engagements severely diminished when it was alleged that he had communist interests. He stayed in England all his life never again returning fully to America, although he never renounced American citizenship. He died in St Thomas’s Hospital, London, in 2001.
Derek Hammond-Stroud - Baritone
After our President John Ogdon died in 1989 the Committee invited the distinguished English baritone Derek Hammond-Stroud (1926 – 2012) to become the new President. He accepted and remained our President until 1995.
He was best known for his performances of German lieder and his international performances in opera, in particular the role of Alberich in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. He also made a number of recordings including a series of recordings of Gilbert and Sullivan roles, the Reginald Goodall Ring recordings and a much praised 1979 live recording of Schubert’s Winterreise with accompanist Geoffrey Parsons.
He visited the society several times, notably when he gave a talk to us about his great friend, the legendary German baritone Gerhard Hüsch and then 3rd July 1990 when he gave a memorable master class to six local talented singers, most being pupils of the soprano and teacher Edna Graham. At these sessions his great enthusiasm and wit were plain for all to see.
Derek Hammond-Stroud was born in London in 1926. He studied singing at Trinity College of Music and also optometry at the Northampton Institute (now City University). One the society’s long time members, Anne Macintosh, studied optometry with him. They both graduated in 1949 and kept in touch with other for many years. It was singing which won in the battle for his affections and he eventually became one of England’s leading baritones.
He made his concert debut at the 1955 St Pancras Festival in a concert performance of Haydn’s Orfeo ed Euridice and his stage debut as Publio in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito in 1957. He was a very accomplished lieder singer and made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1956 (with Gerald Moore accompanist). He appeared regularly in London, Vienna and Amsterdam. His expertise in Schubert Songs came from his study of the German lieder under Gerhard Hüsch and the mezzo-soprano, Eleanor Gerhardt. Colin Pryke, Chairman of Redbridge Music Society at the time, recalls an exclusive performance given by Hammond-Stroud of Schubert’s Winterreise at Leighton House. He had already given a Wigmore Hall recital of this work in 1979, a memorable recording of which was finally released on CD in 2002.
Derek Hammond-Stroud had a very successful career in both Opera and Lieder and from 1961 to 1971 was a principal baritone with the English National Opera He was particularly well known for performances as Alberich in Wagner’s The Ring (the famous Reginald Goodall performances). and Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Operatic engagements have included Covent Garden (debut 1971), the Metropolitan Opera the Munich State Opera, Theater an der Wien, the Netherlands Opera, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and Glyndebourne. He also appeared regularly at the Proms from 1968.
He was also well known as a superb comic actor – especially in Gilbert & Sullivan in roles such as Bunthorne in Patience.. He excelled in modern opera roles like the vicar in Britten’s Albert Herring. He starred alongside artists like Kiri te Kanawa and Luciano Pavarotti and appeared at the Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Windsor and English Bach Festivals.
The was awarded the OBE in 1987 and died in Shrewsbury in May 2012
Stanford Robinson - Conductor
Stanford Robinson (1904 – 1984) was the first internationally prominent English conductor to visit the music society – way back in the 1950s at the society’s Goodmayes venue. He worked tirelessly for the BBC from 1924 to 1966 during which time he set up the BBC Singers, the BBC Choral Society and the BBC Chorus.
He conducted at Covent Garden, was assistant conductor of the Proms from 1947 to 1950 and after retirement in 1966 conducted in Australia and at the Gilbert & Sullivan Nights at the Proms in the early 1970s.
He was the older brother of the popular conductor and broadcaster, Eric Robinson.
Stanford Robinson was born into a musical family in Leeds in 1904 and was named after the composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. After leaving school he earned his living as a pianist playing in restaurant and cinema venues. He eventually studied at the Royal College of Music in London under Adrian Boult.
He began his career on the staff of the BBC in London and his first radio appearance, when he was still less than twenty years old, was when he conducted the Wireless Orchestra (the forerunner of the BBC Symphony Orchestra) in March 1924. In the same year he organised the BBC’s Wireless Chorus and later, as the BBC’s first chorus master, he founded the BBC Singers, the BBC Choral Society and the BBC Chorus
From 1932 to 1946 he served as conductor of the BBC Theatre Orchestra working closely with Eric Coates. During his time in this post he made many distinguished radio and TV broadcasts and recordings, also making broadcasts as a pianist. He made his Covent Garden début in 1937 conducting Die Fledermaus. and appeared in several other venues at home and abroad. From 1946 to 1949, Robinson was the BBC’s opera director and associate conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 1947, he was appointed assistant conductor of the Proms, and conducted them regularly from then until 1950 (his Proms debut had been in 1929 conducting Delius’s On Craig Dhu; after which he conducted at the Proms for the following two seasons). However, after 1950 he was not in favoured with the BBC officials who ran the Proms, and from then up to 1970 he conducted only two Proms (1960 and 1964). Later, in 1970 he was invited to conduct the popular Proms’ Gilbert and Sullivan Night, instituted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. He was invited back for the Gilbert and Sullivan Nights of 1971 and 1972, programming rarely heard numbers alongside the standard.
Later he was associate conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1946-1949), conductor of the BBC Opera Orchestra for broadcasting symphonic music (1949-1953), and a BBC staff conductor from 1952 until 1966, the year of his retirement from the BBC. This was then followed by a short time as chief conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Brisbane, Australia, (1968/9).
He composed a number of ballads, choral and orchestral works (including a Rondo in C for two pianos) and was also an arranger (his Savoy Dances arranged form the G & S Savoy Operas). He made many recordings, the best known probably being Eva Turner’s 1928 recording of “In questa reggia” from Puccini’s Turandot, on which Robinson conducts an unnamed orchestra. He made the first gramophone recording of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in 1930 and nearly 80 years later music critic Alan Blyth (Gramophone magazine) regarded it as “one of the most convincing” and that Robinson “gives the work the dramatic verve that it calls for”.
In 1972 Stanford Robinson was awarded the OBE and in 1984 he died in Brighton aged 80
Sir Lennox Berkeley - Composer
Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903 – 1989) was an English composer who visited the society in the early “Goodmayes” days.
He studied in France under Nadia Boulanger and also with Maurice Ravel, the latter having been a strong influence on Berkeley’s development. He composed many works and in later years adopted serialism which gave a darker quality to his works.
His eldest son, Michael Berkeley (another visitor to Redbridge Music Society), is a composer also.
He was born in Oxford in 1903 and educated at Gresham’s School and Merton College, Oxford. He studied music with the legendary French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger in 1927 in Paris and whilst there became acquainted with Poulenc, Stravinsky, Milhaud, Honegger and Roussel. He also studied with Ravel, who became a key influence in Berkeley’s technical development as a composer. Overall, his time in France was a considerable influence on his music. In later years, his adoption of serialism produced a darker and more brooding style of composition.
When he visited our society, Lennox Berkeley confirmed to us that he had found his voice, and learned to trust its individuality, under the influence Boulanger. He told us that as a boy he was introduced to music by his father’s pianola rolls, a godmother who had studied piano and singing in Paris, and an aunt who was a salon composer. But music was already in his genes: three grand ancestresses were notable (if now forgotten) composers and his great-great-great grandfather, Lord Fortrose, actually made music with the Mozarts.
In 1936 he met Benjamin Britten; they subsequently enjoyed a life long friendship and artistic association, collaborating on a number of works including the suite of Catalan dances Mont Juic, and Variations on an Elizabethan Theme. Berkeley wrote many works – operas, orchestral works (including symphonies, piano concertos and a guitar concerto), choral, solo vocal and chamber music. He wrote several piano works for the pianist Colin Horsley who gave the first performances and made the premier recordings of a number of his works, including his third Piano Concerto.
During WWII he worked for the BBC, where he met his future wife. He was Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music London from 1946 to 1968, and his students there included Richard Rodney Bennett, David Bedford and John Tavener. He was knighted in 1974 and from 1977–83 was President of the Cheltenham Festival.
His eldest son, Michael Berkeley, is also a well-known composer; he too has given a talk at Redbridge Music Society. His youngest son is the photographer, film maker and writer Nick Berkeley.
Eileen Joyce - Pianist
Eileen Joyce (1908 – 1991) was an Australian pianist whose career spanned more than 30 years. In her later years she lived in England and she visited Redbridge Music Society in late 1981.
Her striking stage presence and magical playing made her (and her recordings) popular internationally in the 1930s and 1940s, particularly during WWII.
She was born into abject poverty but her talent was recognised early on and with support and encouragement she rose to international fame. However much of her life was plagued fear and self-doubt and she suffered a breakdown in 1953.
Her playing of the 2nd movement of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto in the films Brief Encounter and The Seventh Veil helped popularise the work.
Eileen Joyce was born in 1908 and grew up in poverty in the backwaters of Western Australia. As a child she would play the mouth organ outside tough Australian pubs to get money and was often teased by her peers at the time for her ‘’raggedy appearance’. She started to learn piano at the age of ten and her talent began to blossom when she was sent to the Loreto Convent School in Perth. Because of her poverty, a fund was set up to raise money to help her future career.
In Australia she was heard by Percy Grainger and Wilhelm Backhaus who were both extremely impressed by her playing and musicianship. On the advice of Backhaus she went to study at the Leipzig Conservatorium, then the mecca of piano teaching. From there she went to the Royal College of Music in London and made her professional London debut in 1930 playing Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto (a very difficult work) at a Henry Wood Promenade Concert. This appearance kick-started her career and she went on to make many recordings at a rapid pace.
She had over 70 concertos in her repertoire (including such unusual works as the John Ireland Piano Concerto in E flat and Rimsky-Korsakov’s concerto) but her firm favourites were the Grieg, Tchaikovsky 1st and Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concertos. (She did not like the Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto and so did not play it publically). She was an extremely fast learner and reputably learnt and then played the Liszt 2nd Piano Concerto (a fiendishly difficult work) in three days.
As her fame grew she toured all over the world playing with many major world orchestras and conductors giving performances to great acclaim, although, however, she was not very popular in the USA. She became even better known during the 1950s, when she played 50 recitals a year in London alone, which were always sold out. She also performed a series of “Marathon Concerts”, playing as many as four concertos in a single evening. At the time her playing of Mozart was described as “of impeccable taste and feeling” and as a player of Bach player “she had commanding authority”.
Eileen Joyce was a strikingly beautiful woman and had great stage presence. This was magnified and polished by her second husband the film impresario, Christopher Mann, who had looked after the likes of Vivienne Leigh and Laurence Olivier. He eventually turned Eileen into a “showbiz figure,” and she started to her then famous dresses with different colours for different composers. It was this that in part led her to being under-appreciated as a serious musician. Through her husband she became in much demand by the film industry and provided soundtracks to many films including Brief Encounter and The Seventh Veil (both 1945). Although these two films helped popularise Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto they did little to enhance her failing credibility within the musical establishment.
Piano performance authority and critic, Bryce Morrison, comments that with increasing fame and her general inability to turn down engagements combined with an enormous workload, eventually took its toll with her. Her concert appearances were fraught with fear of failure and fear that she would be forgotten by the public if she did not perform regularly. She suffered a break-down in 1953 and eventually on 18th May 1960 at a recital at Stirling in Scotland, she symbolically closed the piano lid at the end of her performance, stepped down from the stage and quietly retired, still at the height of her powers. The pain of playing had finally overwhelmed what little pleasure it provided. She came out of this self-imposed exile to make performance appearances only a few times after this event.
She visited Redbridge Music Society on December 3rd 1981 in the society’s last season at the ‘Goodmayes’ venue. Colin Pryke, Chairman of the society at that time, commented, “strangely she was so nervous that they could not get her out of the car. We persuaded her to come into our hall and by the end of the evening she was completely relaxed, laughing and joking with everyone. She played some of her recordings during her talk”..
Despite her fame, her name slipped from public sight after her retirement in the early 1960s although her recordings have now resurfaced on CD. Towards the end of her life she suffered from dementia and she died in March 1991 following a fall at home. Her ashes are interred at St Peter’s Anglican Church, Limpsfield, near those of Sir Thomas Beecham and Jack Brymer.
Ivor Newton - Piano accompanist
Ivor Newton (1892 –1981) visited Redbridge Music Society in late 1970 to give a talk on his great friend Kirsten Flagstad. He was an accompanist to many international singers and string players and was one of the first make the accompanist’s role distinctive.
He toured extensively and played at major international music festivals such as Salzburg and Edinburgh appearing with many famous artists including Nellie Melba, Feodor Chaliapin, Kirsten Flagstad and Pablo Casals.
He was well-known for his superb musicianship and unflappable personality; his distinguished career lasted over 60 years.
Newton was born in Limehouse, London, in 1892 and at studied with, amongst others, the English pianist and composer York Bowen and the German singer Raimund von zur-Mühlen in Berlin. He began his career playing at seaside towns and in the London Piccadilly Orchestra prior to WWI.
Eventually his work took him widely across the world and he performed in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the East. He was in considerable demand not just for his great musicianship but for his cool head both on and off the platform – a character trait that was particularly useful when having to deal with the often temperamental personalities of some artists.
He accompanied many world famous artists including Isobel Baillie, Jussi Björling, Maria Callas, Pablo Casals, Feodor Chaliapin, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Kirsten Flagstad, Beniamino Gigli, Ida Haendel, Victoria de los Ángeles, John McCormack, Nellie Melba, Yehudi Menuhin, Lily Pons, Elisabeth Schumann, Conchita Supervía, Maggie Teyte and Eugène Ysaÿe. Maria Callas invited him to accompany her in her comeback tour with Giuseppe di Stefano in 1973 even though Newton was 81 at the time!
However, it was with Kirsten Flagstad that he was most closely associated and, given that she was known for never changing her mind once it was made up, he managed to persuade her to come out of retirement for a Prom Concert in 1957 honouring the 50th anniversary of the death of her countryman Edvard Grieg. They were very good friends and Newton named his London home after her.
In 1940 he organised a concert at the UK Embassy in Washington in aid of British War Relief. He was also a member of concert parties entertaining troops in Egypt, Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf. In 1946 he toured war zones giving concerts with Gracie Fields in germany and Austria..
Ivor Newton lived for much of his retirement in Old Portsmouth and died in Bromley in 1981. He bequeathed his estate to create the Ivor Newton House, a retirement home for musicians in Bromley run by the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, Vilém Tauský and Stanford Robinson being some of its notable occupants.
Jack Brymer - Clarinettist
The celebrated clarinettist Jack Brymer (1915 – 2003) visited Redbridge Music Society in September 1991.The media had described him as “the leading clarinettist of his generation, perhaps of the century”.
He was largely self-taught and as a boy encountered and appreciated a wide range of music genres which he insisted had been of great value to him in his later professional career. He played for many years in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham and later on in the BBC Symphony and London Symphony Orchestras.
He had a prolific career and in addition to performing was a teacher, author, recording artist and a frequent broadcaster. He is remembered particularly for his outstanding recordings and performances of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.
During his talk to the society in 1991 Jack Brymer introduced many recorded excerpts of music and told us many musical anecdotes. In addition to being a prominent soloist he played under many great conductors, including Sir Thomas Beecham. Comparing Beecham with Toscanini in the performance of Rossini’s “La Scala di Seta” Overture (The Silken Ladder) he observed that with Beecham it was indeed a silken ladder, with Toscanini it was a steel one!
He was born in South Shields in 1915. His father was an amateur clarinettist and Jack Brymer, with no formal instruction, began to work out instrumental technique in a practical way by himself playing in local bands and amateur orchestras. He eventually trained as a general teacher at London’s Goldsmith College and in his spare time continued to play in amateur groups. On the recommendation of Dennis Brain, Sir Thomas Beecham invited Brymer to audition for the newly created Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He was duly appointed in 1947 and remained with the orchestra until 1963, two years after Beecham’s death.
Brymer later played in the BBC Symphony and then the London Symphony Orchestras. He was also associated with several chamber music ensembles (notably the London Wind Soloists) and maintained a lifelong pleasure in playing mainstream jazz. He held professorships during most of the period from 1950 to 1993, first at the Royal Academy of Music, then at the Royal Military School of Music, and finally at the Guildhall School of Music.
During his career he made many recordings, perhaps the most well-known being that of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. Many feel that he combination of Brymer, Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic in this work has never been surpassed. It has been commented by the musical media and by his peers that his tone was warm and expressive, his style mellifluous and his platform manner unruffled.
He continued to play into his 80s. He died at the age of 88 and his ashes are interred close to the grave of Beecham in St peter’s Churchyard, Limpsfield.
Avril Coleridge-Taylor - Pianist
Avril Coleridge-Taylor (1903 – 1998) was an English pianist, conductor, and composer. She was one of the first famous visitors to Redbridge Music Society in the 1960s, and is seen here playing the piano for the members on that evening.
She was the daughter of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and conducted his most famous work, Hiawatha, on a number of occasions at the Royal Albert Hall. She was also a composer, writing under the pseudonym of Peter Riley.
In her later years she lived in South Africa under apartheid sadly finding it difficult to get work because of her part-African ancestry.
Gwendolyn Avril Coleridge-Taylor (she later dropped her first name) was born in South Norwood, London, in 1903 and was the daughter of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. She was only nine years old when her father died but she wrote and published her first composition (a song), Goodbye Butterfly, at the age of twelve. Later, she won a scholarship for composition and piano to the Trinity College of Music in 1915, where she was taught by Gordon Jacob (who also visited our society) and Alec Rowley.
In 1933 she made her London debut as a conductor at the Royal Albert Hall and on a number of occasions conducted her father’s most famous work Hiawatha there. Avril also conducted several major orchestras, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition, she was the first woman to conduct the band of H. H. Royal Marines. She was the founder and conductor of both the Coleridge-Taylor Symphony Orchestra and its accompanying musical society in the 1940s as well as the Malcolm Sargent Symphony Orchestra..
During her career she wrote more than 90 compositions which include large-scale orchestral works, as well as songs, keyboard, and chamber music. Her more well-regarded works include a Piano Concerto in F minor, Wyndore for choir and orchestra, and Golden Wedding Ballet Suite for orchestra. In 1956 Avril arranged and conducted the spirituals performed in a BBC radio version of the play The Green Pastures and in 1957 she wrote the Ceremonial March to celebrate Ghana’s independence.”
She spent her latter life in South Africa, where she lived under apartheid. Originally she passed for white theer but subsequently she could not work as a composer or conductor because of her one-fourth black African ancestry. Her son, Nigel Dashwood comments, “In the music world mother was discriminated against more as a black woman than as a woman. She was accused of making headway using her father’s name, which wasn’t true. That is why she chose to use the pseudonym Peter Riley. The classical music profession disadvantaged her because of what she was”.