by Harry Coles
To get to SW1 one
showed ones orange
Zero hour for us
was , to assemble in the Hall of Westminster School,
Deans Yard. Though having been at work then for over a year
with a firm in Whitechapel, E1., I was then still a treble
chorister of 18 years 3 months at the Cathedral and Collegiate
Church of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overie, Southwark, but at
weekends only. Id joined in January 1931, when nearing 12
years of age. At St. Olaves and St. Saviours Grammar
School (STOGS Royal Charters granted in 1562
and 1571) by
was peculiar to our beloved Dr. Edgar T. Cook, CBE., Organist
there 1909-1953, that being
On entering the School Hall, in one hand I held my precious crimson-covered score of the Music and the Rite, and in the other, my green pork-pie hat! A congenial gentleman approached, whose wireless voice was far more familiar than his visage, with a: Good morning, Sir; and are you a Tenor or a Bass? And I, in my very deepest early-morning voice of an 18-year old, replied: Treble, Sir Walford!, and left others to pick him up, and dust him down!
Dr. Cook had chosen his top three boys from decani and cantoris sides. Later, we found ourselves on cantoris, right in the very front, above the pulpitum (which held specially-chosen orchestral players, with Dr. Ernest Bullock, our conductor, (Organist of the Abbey), but below the organ pipes. One had the advantage there over those opposite, in having a direct view across to the Royal Family, seated on the south side of the Sanctorium!
But who later should come and sit next to me, I being at the end of the row which was the first bay east of the pulpitum, a sub-conductor, he now resplendent in Court Dress with buckled shoes and cravat, but Sir Walford Davies, Master of the Kings Musick!! We got on together like a house on fire! A sweeter person one could never have met, just as lovely as his music.
On a previous
day, duly robed, all had gone into the
In 1937, the
Abbeys organ was undergoing a rebuild by Harrison &
Harrison Ltd. of
At the coronation there was orchestral music before and afterwards, and we heard Dr. Peasgood, Sub-Organist, if memory fails one not, regale all with the great Prelude in C minor, BWV 546, of Bach, which was a particular thrill! Well before 1953, the instrument had been superbly restored, its Pearson cases (now filled with pipes), all duly embellished most beautifully.
In 1937, to sing first-performances of works written for the occasion, to us was a particular thrill, and to see the composers of same: Edward Bairstow, Walford Davies, George Dyson, William Harris, and Vaughan Williams, more so! Their music then is still being sung. Similarly, new works for June 1953 by: Dyson, Harris, Howells, Walton, Healey Willan, and Vaughan Williams, the composers being present, and that in a week horridly cold and wet! Such precluded a 1953 coronation group-photo being taken. And with that coronation, Dr. Cook, having died on the 5th March, with my having been picked to sing at that one too, was purely by chance. Southwarks Precentor then had organised a ballot amongst us six lay clerks. It resulted in two tenors, and a bass attending, myself the latter!
In 1953 too, with
my green Choir Pass No. 369, the route there appeared after a
16-year interval, nevertheless somewhat familiar, finding myself,
eventually, and very coincidentally, but a yard or so behind my
1937 seat! Nationally, only three sang at both coronations
(were in touch), and each has the two medals from
Majestys 40th anniversary, that memorable
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