Handwashers’ Newsletter 9th August 2020


Thank you for all your responses to the summary of the Committee Meeting which have been forwarded to the Committee members. They can perhaps be best summarised as supportive though sad. Please forgive us for not acknowledging them all individually. 

FRANCES AT SCHOOL Frances Angus takes us back a very few years to her school days:


I was eleven.  I had moved from my junior school to a grammar school.  This school had 3 choirs: junior, middle and senior.  I was fortunate to be taken into the junior choir and to my delight moved up ending with the senior choir.  Each choir did a performance of some sort during the year but my ambition was to be part of the Christmas concert taking place just before the end of term. 

The school layout had the music room on the first floor and the corridor from this led to the flights of steps leading down to the hall.  These steps were formed in the shape of an X.  The Christmas concert began with the senior choir starting to sing behind closed doors in the music room.  We wore our navy-blue raincoats with hoods and carried a lighted lantern.  The door was opened and we processed along the corridor and walked down the steps of the X into the darkened hall.  Having watched this before as an onlooker it was a magical experience but being part of it was both magical and wonderful.

I have never forgotten it.

A MAGIC MOMENT for Tim and Lorna:

Soon after Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla took over as Music Director of the CBSO, we were lucky enough to see her conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at Symphony Hall. When the moment came, nothing seemed to happen, then we became aware that the orchestra was playing something multo-pianissimo, Mirga appeared to be absolutely still, though her fingers were probably directing. We could see audience members looking at each other, ‘This isn’t the Fifth?’

Then suddenly Mirga leaped into the air, arms waving, hair flying, Ta Ta Ta Taa crashed the orchestra and we were into Beethoven’s masterpiece played with enormous brio. We’ve no idea whether there was musical provenance for this, but it was unforgettable musical theatre.

Here is Mirga conducting the CBSO in the Fifth at the 2019 Proms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnJzIbtk-7U

FOOTNOTE Following last week’s exposé of his ‘unholey’ socks, Warwick requests that we give a plug to his mother, Ann Cole, who knitted them.

SINGALONG Jane Read invites us to sing these timely words to a tune we all know here: masks

ETHEL SMYTH Now that we’ve enjoyed their World singing tour (Los Angeles, Barcelona, Royal Albert Hall, Montserrat, Istanbul, Wormwood Scrubs) Vic introduces us to some less familiar works which he and Sue have sung, starting with another female composer:

Ethel Smyth was born in 1858 and died in 1994. She wrote this Mass in 1891. She was the daughter of a military man with fixed ideas on the role of women in society. She had to fight for a long time to achieve her ambition to study music in Leipzig. Whilst in Munich she spent time in the company of Sir Alfred Trevelyan whose daughter Pauline was to become the inspiration for the Mass.

Although Ethel Smyth failed to interest any English choral societies or their conductors, she had more success in Scotland when she introduced the Mass to Queen Victoria during the autumn of 1891. However it was through the Empress Eugenie who took a special interest in the Mass that it came to be performed by The Royal Choral Society(The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s son was President of the Royal Choral Society) in the Albert Hall on the 18th January 1893. It was not a resounding success and the Mass was not performed again until 1924 when it was conducted in Birmingham by Adrian Boult.

Earlier in her life she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union and pledged to devote the next two years to the task of achieving votes for women. She became friends with Emily Pankhurst and as a suffragette spent a spell of three or four weeks in Holloway Prison for throwing a brick through the window of the Colonial Secretary’s house.

Our choir (Pro Musica Chorus of London) was invited to sing the Mass when the Women’s Movement was strong at the time. The orchestra was the European Women’s Orchestra, conducted of course by a woman whose name escapes me. The Mass itself is quite demanding to sing but it didn’t leave an indelible impression on me although Sue found it to be inspiring.

What do you think? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVSpw3srMbc



The buttons of my jeans have started social distancing from each other