No More Music Lessons

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: 

4 Responses

  1. Skills can be taught but not talent.

  2. Hi there.
    It seems you were a few years above me at George Green’s school, Robert. Nyman probably left before I arrived, but Leslie Winters taught me music. His recorder consort and son Ross became regulars on BBC Radio 3 back in the day. I still have fond memories of lunchtime ‘Listening Circle’ sessions where we ate our packed lunches and listened to vinyl – some of us were even given a score to follow! I seem to remember other pupils who shared your surname in the years just above mine – were they your family members?

    Regards from Steve Hall (living in Norfolk, UK and running a web design business for the past 20-odd years).

    • STEVE
      I had two sisters. Christine was two years above me and Yvonne two years below me. The school is prospering and is now located on the isle of Dogs close to where the old playing fields were.



    • Ah. Yvonne would probably be the name I remember then. I have visited the school at the Isle of Dogs since then – I lived in Bow, Poplar then Ilford before moving to Norfolk over 25 years ago, but no longer have a reason to return to London. Grammar schools aren’t flavour of the month here these days (seen as exclusive and elitist), but despite being a socialist, I do recognise the unique kind of education it gave us in the 60’s and 70s in that part of London and I’m glad I went there. All the best for 2018, Robert!

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