When I was twelve two new music teachers entered the staff of George Green’s Grammar School. One looked like an older version of the other. The senior teach was Lesley Winter and the junior teach was a chap who become famous as a composer – Michael Nyman. They both had cropped hair and cropped beards and had a special way of teaching music, which reminded me of the selection and teaching methods that Eastern European Communist countries adopted at the time.
They would (out of a grammar school of about 260 pupils) select four of five children who were clever academically and in whom they saw some aptitude for music. These selected few were well taught, and it must have been a wonderful experience for them For most of us, including me, there was no music lessons. The school had a choir, again selected by the music teachers, but I was not even auditioned for it. I rather suspect there were no auditions, that the music teachers only wanted to have those who could sing in the choir rather than go through the bore of having to teach children how to sing.
The choir performed well; I remember still how they sang the Ballad of London River to Sir Arthur Bliss who came on Speech day to dole out the prizes.
From the Cotswolds, from the Chilterns, from
your fountains and your springs,
Flow down, O London River, to the sea
gull’s silver wings: