One area of my career which did not last very long was that of singing - barely three decades.  Having commenced a profound interest in music as a cathedral chorister for some 8 years, it was the natural sequella, even when the voice had 'broken', to continue singing at the lower register.  At school, this was realised in senior forms by participating in choirs and the annual Gilbert & Sullivan productions - The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe with all due thanks to Ernest Treasure, Head of Music at the High with his many semesters of private singing (and organ) tuition.  In leisure time, membership of a local musical society opened the doors to Romberg, Monkton and Lehar etc..

Amahl & the Night Visitors
Marriage of Figaro
The Abbey Church Coupar Angus
The 1960s found me singing tenor with Tayside Opera, taking the tenor lead e.g. (King Caspar) in 'Amahl' by Menotti and (Don Curzio) in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.  In addition there were concerts by the company and a certain branching out to sing tenor soloist in .e.g. Mendelssohn's 'Elijah' and recitals such as the Dvorak Biblical Songs & oratorio arias at Cupar Angus Abbey, together with helping out in a major city church choir when required.   What stopped a valuable art, originally fired by the Italian Hour on Radio Luxemburg when in my teens - a valuable site at which to learn arias and the pronunciation of Italian?
The Cupar Angus Abbey recital burned itself into my memory, reminding me of my not so youthful daring at the age of 32.  The organ I found was high-pitched i.e. a semitone higher than concert pitch.  One aria I sang was "Thou shalt break them" from Handel's Messiah and had a good number of top A's normally.  With the aforementioned offending organ accompaniment I, therefore, had to pull top B flats out of the air.  Thank heaven for my operatic experience!
Constant work as Organist/Choirmaster by the 1960s found me on the rostrum on many occasions with baton conducting various cantatas and oratorios.  When full orchestra was involved, one tended to treat the vocal mechanism with less and less respect by singing perhaps a second trombone lead over the full orchestra when the occupant of that chair was missing.   Although I sang a recital for my Trinity College of Music viva which was a necessity, my drive for vocal performance was waning. 

Yet another reason was that one cannot follow too many pursuits and, by the late 1950s and early 60s, I was concentrating more and more on alto saxophone and clarinet.  In these days, playing 'reeds' in the evening in bands of local clubs was a method of earning extra 'bread', as was the saying then.  Indeed it was in the spring of 1960 I gave a public performance of the Artie Shaw clarinet concerto.  (vide the Brechin page.)  By 1962 I found time to play piano for a number of ballet endeavours, arranging numbers and delivering these on piano for modern choreography in concert for a local operatic society.  And all this on top of my work in management - where I found the energy heaven knows!

On entering the teaching profession in 1978, the onerous tasks of regularly rehearsing brass and concert bands plus a large orchestra played further havoc with the vocal chords.  The constant use of the voice in teaching convinced me to flee the springtime bouts of laryngitis and forget about whether I was still a tenore di mezzo carattere or becoming a baritono with age.  By the 1970s and 80s, the vocal and woodwind activities had disappeared leaving me to concentrate on teaching (secondary education and privately), organ performance and conducting.  Composition was always in the perimeter in the 80s and 90s, gaining me an entry in a "Dictionary of Composers for Organ" by Dr. John Henderson -  hon. librarian & archivist to the Royal School of Church Music.


It is surprising how the time devoted to one desire/aim in life can be usurped by another and supplanted by yet another, perhaps in a gradual continuum to give a rich learning curve in a broad subject over decades.

My favourite singers

Soprano: Victoria de los Angeles, Lucia Popp, Kirsten Flagstad, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Hammond, Rita Hunter, Rene Fleming, Dawn Upshaw.

Contralto: Clara Butt, Kathleen Ferrier, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Marian Anderson, Sigrid Onégin,

Tenore: Beniamino Gigli, Mario Del Monaco, Alessandro Valente, Nicolai Gedda, Fritz Wunderlich, Juan Diego Florez, Charles Castronovo.

Baritono: Titta Ruffo. Leo Schützendorf, Tito Gobbi, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Boaz Allen, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Geraint Evans.

Basso: Feodor Chaliapin, Ezio Pinza, Jerome Hines, Nicolai Ghiaurov.


Embedded track: "Serenade" (Romberg's 'Student Prince')
sung by Charles Castronovo with the John Wilson Orchestra