Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Fairy Tailor by Micheal Head

Monday's teaching brought some delightful moments. Lots of vocal highlights and good singing including a very successful lesson with one of my small pupils, J. I had felt that this term was the moment to introduce some more challenging repertoire which was longer than the usual two pages of music, so I gave her two lovely songs, one of which was the gorgeous The Fairy Tailor by Michael Head.

J is a rather serious little thing with an earnest desire to do all that is asked of her, and a thinking and intelligent approach to her learning. This does not mean that she can't be full of fun and bouncing, but I really admire her work ethic, and thus her excellent progress!

She thrives when given a challenge and the delightful Michael Head miniature was just such a challenge. It is the most beautiful and exquisite poem by Rose Fyleman, which vividly paints a picture of fairyland, where a busy, almost frantically so, fairy tailor sits cross legged beneath the hollyhocks sewing dresses and outfits for all the inhabitants of fairyland ! Each type of ethereal being having their own colour and style, all fashioned from flowers in the garden.

It is, for a nine year old, a complex and wordy poem, and the bright Head melody zips along as fast as the fairy tailor's needle weaves in and out of the fabrics. I rather naively assumed that the serious faced little singer in my music room would understand the names and hues of all the flowers, and undoubtedly she had learnt the song very well indeed, but clearly she did not ! I decided to simplify the whole thing, and when I explained that all of these fairy frocks, shoes and frills were made from petals in the garden, a slow but sparkly beam stretched across her face, filled with all the wonder and colour of this magical land.

......Grey for the Goblins, Blue for the Elves, Brown for the little Gnomes who live by themselves, White for the Pixies who dance in the lane........

The second verse names all the flower fabrics

.......Petals from the Pansy for little velvet shoon, Silk of the Poppy for a dance beneath the moon, Lawn of the Jasmine and Damask of the Rose to make their pretty Kirtles and airy Furbelows.........

The poet calls them all a 'store of treasure' and how perfect that is. This little fairy tailor heaps them all around him and 'wraps them up in gossamer' ready for use.

This glorious little song sparks the same magic thoughts in me now, at the grand age of ' well beyond childhood', that tales of fairies did when I was a small child playing in the back garden of my home, and lazily swinging on my beloved swing. It is a timeless picture, so full of colour, imagination, and shining sunny days.

I have taught this song many times over the years, I sometimes think this is the case because I only started singing lessons at the ripe old age of 13 years, so I missed out on all the wonderful child repertoire ! Vicarious teaching indeed !


I tried to find out about Rose Fyleman, the poet and here is a little of her early life,


Rose Fyleman was born in Nottingham on 6 March 1877, the third child of John Feilmann and his wife, Emilie, née Loewenstein, who was of Russian extraction. Her father was in the lace trade, and his Jewish family originated in 1860 from Jever in the historical state of Oldenburg, currently Lower Saxony, Germany.[2]

As a young girl, Fyleman was educated at a private school, and at the age of nine first saw one of her compositions published in a local paper. Although she entered University College, Nottingham, she failed in the intermediate and was thus unable to pursue her ambition of becoming a schoolteacher. Despite this, Fyleman had a good singing voice, and therefore decided to study music. She studied singing in Paris, Berlin and finally at the Royal College of Music in London, where she received her diploma as associate of the Royal College of Music. She returned to Nottingham shortly afterward, where she taught signing and helped in her sister's school. Along with other members of her family, she anglicised the spelling of her name at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, so as not to be considered an 'alien'.


I felt a sudden affinity with this lady when I read this. My surname is Lampard, and my grandfather, and his forebears were from the island of Jersey. The name was L'ampard, but my grandfather changed it and took out the apostrophe as he wished to serve with the British Army and not the French Militia at the outbreak of WW1. The name in its original form was considered too 'alien' and may have caused problems. The Anglicised version has remained ever since.

The only picture I could find of Rose Fyleman

(And that came from a Russian website !)


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