Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Happy Amateur

I love teaching tiny people, and by that I don't mean short ! There is something so beautiful about a flutey and light sound from a small body which is just so delightful. I had such a tiny today. I have not seen her since I went on my festival travels, and then song school, and then blow me, the first week back she had one of the many bugs attacking lots of children in our local schools.


She came today armed with her pink folder, all her songs beautifully filed with the new ones at the top, and presented me with her unsellotaped ( - my pupils will know the penalty for that musical crime) song, and sang the tricky little Grandfather Clock to me so sweetly, and with such lovely clear words, the unsellotaped pages were forgotten in a moment!


This particular song is not the Music Hall song which ends with ........when the old man died........ This one is by Alec Rowley who wrote so many little gems, and this one is also a tiny jewel. The second verse has the words


'The clock that by the window stands is very old and slow,


Perhaps it has rheumatics bad, for grandpas do you know !'


How cute is that!


Alec Rowley was a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music in London, The English teacher, composer and pianist Alec Rowley taught composition at Trinity College in London. He broadcast frequently in piano duet repertoire with Edgar Moy, and his name was known to many through his writing and through the many educational pieces that he wrote, staple fare for many a beginner or amateur player. His more demanding work as a composer has been unfairly neglected. Rowleys Piano Concerto No.1, scored for piano, strings, and percussion, was first performed in 1938.


One of his finest little songs is The Friendly Cow. A truly gorgeous two pager, with a melody sweet enough to eat, and just perfect for small, slight and musical voices.


His short biog came from the Internet, and I was very amused to find it on a website called English Composers For Amateurs ! It is funny how so many of the British composers of the early part of last century are considered by many to be more for the 'happy amateur' than the true professional. Much of this music is challenging, creative and full of strong melody. Much of it, of course, was used by amateurs, but that is because the UK has always been a bastion of amateur music making. Of all the countries in the western world, Great Britain has the finest and oldest tradition of choral societies, cathedral music, amateur operatic groups and brass bands. In many cases large tracts of music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Quilter, Armstrong Gibbs, and even Britten to some degree, were premiered with a mix of fine amateur choirs and professional soloists. Without the amateur, much music would never have been commissioned or performed in the great concert halls of the UK as well as worldwide.

Just have a look at the lovely old covers for his music. They don't make them like that anymore!



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