had come to us in 1996 the evening of Whitsunday, a
little stray - starving, bedraggled and
pregnant. There and then she 'unpacked her bags'
and decided where her home should be! On the
night of the Summer Solstice between 2 and 4 a.m. she
had a litter of four beautiful kittens to whom she was
the perfect mother and on which occasion I found
myself as a reluctant midwife! Alas, as Nature
would have it, she rejected them all eventually and we
sadly had to part with them to good homes. This
is now history as Pepper passed away in November 2009.
To fill the void in our
lives we 'bailed' two 3 year old sisters from the Cats'
Protection League - Megan a
tortoise-shell long hair and Chloe
a small black and white long hair. Both have
wonderful natures and seem to have been born to be
to retirement I was Head of Music at Linlathen
High School, Dundee, Scotland for twenty
years. In fact I was the last incumbent
of that post as the school was closed due to
the local authority's policy of school
closures and amalgamations in 1996.
The buildings have been
since demolished and replaced with a branch of
Morrison's supermarket. (O schola clara, quomodo
cecidisti - hinc illae lacrimae!) I have
been told that, where my department was situated on
the site, there is now a fish counter! Being a
cancerian - a real old crab, I can live with
Throughout my career
and indeed most of my life, I
functioned as Director of Music in various major
Churches in East Scotland and was at one time Master
of The Music at Perth Cathedral. I successfully
directed the first 5-day festival of Music and Floral
Art in Scotland in June 1967 - my annus mirabilis.
Another first for me
and for Scotland was my conducting of a composite
recital by Christians and Hindus in September 1986
demonstrating their respective vocal praising of The
Absolute - a real interfaith dialogue.
In the 1960s & 70s
my own choral group, The Chandos Choir, featured
prominently in the musical life of Dundee city,
providing an additional annual oratorio performance
and a secular concert to the city's arts activities.
particularly enjoyed working with the many pupils
drawn from all schools in the city who formed the St.
Cecilia Symphony Orchestra which, in its time, boasted
some one hundred and ten musicians and which it was my
privilege to conduct. At the start of each
session, with new recruits in situ, they would
blow and scrape their limping way through Handel's
Suite "The Royal Fireworks, "Swan Lake" Ballet Suite,
the more impossible "The March to the Scaffold" from
the Symphonie Fantastique or "The Great Gate of
Kiev." "God," thought I on many occasions,
"They'll never make it. Have I expected that bit
too much?" On concert night in June, however,
they would give a polished performance! Perhaps
God knew better and I had been wrong.
Within the pages of
this site I share with you some musical experiences
and performances which remain in the forefront of my
mind. Indeed this site is dedicated to many
former students, past choristers and colleagues in
performance, all of whom I count as friends.
At school there was
happily a certain reciprocity in education.
On the academic front,
I taught everything from plainchant to the modernists
such as Berg and Hindemith and, in the popular realm,
from Provençal Song to Progressive and Symphony
Rock. In return I was kept up to date by
narratives relating to the current pop idols and a
wealth of wall posters kindly donated by the 13 and 14
year olds. As for my seniors, I coaxed and drove
them to Higher Grade passes in the subject while they
in return made me computer literate, or nearly
so. I remember when two former pupils would
drive some sixty-five miles to give me assistance when
there was a software problem - bless 'em!
Every term I had
students in teacher training for practical experience
both 2nd and 3rd year music students and post
graduates in teacher training - some with flair and
great ability, others on whom my staff and I attempted
to work miracles.
In addition were the
weekly lectures at the local College of Education to
final year students on methodology who, on account of
the later era in which they were born, had to be
introduced to the differences twixt the Basie,
Ellington and Goodman big bands and how to recognise
the cool sound of Lee Coniz's alto sax compared with
the driving sound of Charlie Parker. Was that
example the lyrical style of Stan Getz on tenor sax or
the aggressive drive of Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis?
How does one get a top A from an alto sax which has
only an F# as its upper limit? What is the
difference between Latin American and Afro-Cuban?
And when presented with
the sound of a Traditional Jazz Band, none of the
students could say the the overall description of the
music was "generally contrapuntal"! On turning
the clock back through the centuries, can we not say
that Bach was the inventor of the 'walking bass'?
The practical side
included how to deliver these concepts to certificate
and non-certificate pupils, how symphonic rock numbers
could effectively provide elements of form, the
production of classroom arrangements of everything
from Vltava to TV themes for classroom use. How
to open the door to Swan Lake by first introducing a
class to "Saturday Night at the Duck Pond" and much
much more. It was all very worthwhile and