It has been just over six weeks since I did the earlier parts of this series – which you may recall came about as a result of me being able to open a deed box having found the key that had been missing for five years.
As Part 1 was an introduction this article relates to the second item out of the box – a Certificate of Merit from the 1966 Suffolk Music Festival.
As I mentioned in my posting “Read all about it!” on 25th March 2010 I first taught myself to play the small wood or plastic wind instrument known as the Descant Recorder as a way of avoiding a much disliked TV programme featuring incessant Scottish folk music and traditional dancing (shudder!) that my parents seemed to like for reasons that elude me completely!
I practiced in our otherwise little-used front room and by the time my school introduced weekly lessons during my final year there I was well ahead of the class.
Just as well really because when I moved across town and spent a single term at Britannia Road Junior School I found that THEY had been doing Recorder lessons for years with the result that I was merely level with the rest of my class.
And, believe me, that MATTERED! I was the new boy amongst kids who had been together for about five years and who weren’t that interested in being friendly because there was only one term left before we scattered to Secondary or Grammar School.
I could easily keep up with them intellectually but they had a swimming pool (which my old school hadn’t) and I was suffering a certain amount of teacher sarcasm for being the only person in the class who couldn’t swim! I think she disliked me for coming in late and spoiling her record! Not being able to play the Recorder as well would have made things MUCH worse!
Nasty old Cow! The words “Hey, teacher! Leave that kid alone” spring, inevitably, to mind!
Incidentally, on the Friends Reunited website there is an old photo of that class which features both me and my old friend Hank – we were the only two boys in that picture who failed our “11Plus” exams and went to Copleston (previously known as Prospicimus) Secondary Modern. The other snooty buggers and most of the girls went to Grammar School or into Private education. I didn’t miss them!
Anyway, let’s drag ourselves back to my story which we resume with me arriving at the aforementioned Secondary school aged eleven and a half.
I cannot remember how I was recruited into the Recorder Group at the new school – there was either a message passed around asking for volunteers or a note had been made on my “file” by earlier teachers and the master in charge of the group spotted it and contacted me directly.
However it was done I found myself turning up for practice with a group of players from the first three years (that would be years 7, 8 and 9 by the present way of numbering them) of the school.
The idea was that we would become sufficiently proficient to play once a week at the daily school assembly thus giving Mr “Wombat” Woolford, the Art master and regular pianist a bit of a rest.
I thought this was a great idea as school assemblies were very boring with hymns and prayers, the former always done standing up! Now, on the morning that we performed, I could sit down the whole time and NOT SING! Furthermore our practice sessions were held two mornings a week while the assembly was going on so I got to legitimately miss 40% of them as well!
At some time during the second year Ernest “The Runt” Ladbroke who had run the group died suddenly and was replaced as head of English by Max Page (aka “The Lord of the flies”) about whose child molesting activities both my friend “Cornelius” and I have written previously.
We were not aware of these activities at the time and as our rehearsals did not take place in the library stockroom we were not affected by them!
Max was an accomplished Recorder player (and if I say that his fingering was supposed to be magnificent I will probably be misconstrued by those of you with extremely dirty minds!) and tried very hard to make us into musicians of his standard. With not too much success it must be said.
He did, however, believe that we could be improved by competition to which end he entered us (stop sniggering that boy!) into various musical events.
The first of these that I remember was at Beyton School near Bury St. Edmunds one Saturday. I have no recollection of what we played (I THINK it was a group competition rather than individual) or how we did against the other competitors. In fact my only abiding memory is of waiting, after our turn but before the results came out, in the school car park with bottles of Coca-Cola but no opener!
One of the other boys in our team, after checking that no-one was watching, showed us how to knock the tops off using the beautifully polished chrome bumper of Mr Page’s immaculate two-seater Volkswagen sports car!
Following on from that some of us were put in for the Suffolk Music Festival at the Guildhall in Bury St Edmunds – I think two of us competed in the “Individual under 14 Recorder” event, while Max himself was in the “Male Adult Recorder” and a quartet comprising 2 Descant, 1 Treble and 1 Tenor Recorder went in for the “Under 14 quartet” category.
I have never been so scared!
Playing in a big group at school assembly was bad enough but here I had to play a pre-rehearsed piece in front of a panel of complete strangers!
My hands were shaking and I think I had at least one false start when I forgot to nod to the old dear who was accompanying everyone on the piano but I got through it eventually.
When the results were announced I wasn’t “placed” but got a Certificate of Merit which was awarded to everyone getting over 75%. According to the certificate I scored 82%.
And I keep that certificate to remind me that, once upon a time, I was quite good at something!
There have been a few references in this piece to other articles posted on either my site or that of my “old school Thai” aka Cornelius, Mike V and other aliases too numerous to list. I’ve listed them all here rather than spoil the flow (?) of the narrative, just in case you want to dip in.