Recording at Maida Vale - 1943-5 by Mary Lawson

These years began with the first ominous realisation that what the newspapers were beginning to headline as the 'Second Front', must be faced soon. The UK seemed to have escaped being invaded but would itself have to confront the task of putting armed forces on the European shores. The Russian front was still in a state of deadlock with its major cities still besieged. Japanese forces occupied most of the Pacific region and threatened India.

During the recent troubled year we occupants of the Maida Vale basement had been too busy to notice what was happening in the other sections of the BBC but we now became aware of subtle changes in our workload and staffing. The now fully established 'Training School' was pouring out WOs and JMEs. The younger REs we had known on our shifts were being moved elsewhere, leaving a shift staffed typically by 4WOs who were supervised only by one of the venerable SREs. As an 'oldie' WO fully experienced in all the recording systems, I not only had to do some instruction but found myself entrusted with most of the Philips Miller recordings, especially of music. The Research Engineers installed a new gadget, The Limiter, a form of automatic volume control which did away with hand monitoring of volume input and some score reading. New disc playback machines had the pick-up arm moving not radially but horizontally along a graduated scale on which could be read the number of the actual groove being played at any moment. This made editing easier and an end to the crude yellow crayon marking. Having ample staff meant that disc recording was no longer as frenetic as it used to be.

Bush House now housed an independent unit crammed with people of all nationalities who were sending out round-the-clock programmes in 40 languages to all parts of the world. Only occasionally did we do work, usually editing, for them. The canteen gossip line told us that also big and secret changes were taking place in BH. Our friends along the corridor, the OB engineers told us of their newly-equipped recording cars and that they may soon be required to have training with the army.

We soon understood that our Maida Vale role would now be to keep the UK Home and Forces services supplied with recorded material. With almost the whole national workforce engaged on day and night shifts, the Home Service supplied a 'something for everybody' variety of programmes, starting at 7am with an instructor getting the nation performing physical exercises to the sound of rhythmic music played on two pianos. Mr Middleton, the country's favourite gardener told how to grow cabbages. The Minister of Food discussed rationing, assisted by a creative cook Marguerite Patten. The Radio Doctor advised on how to keep healthy. Much of this was pre-recorded on disc for repetition. It may surprise today's listeners to learn that several times every day 30 minute intervals were used for the playing of commercial recordings of classical music performed by the world's greatest orchestras and conductors. This was a young JME's job. Recorded on tape, 'Music while you Work' went to factories three times a day. A vital broadcast each morning and afternoon was the educational material broadcast to schools, evacuation and air raids etc. having disrupted much of their pre -war schedules. Still clinging to some of the former Reith tradition, time was found for a short religious service each day. Children's Hour at teatime with the aunties and uncles was also sacrosanct.

Evening schedules found us at our busiest. The Variety Department housed in Bangor supplied us with the weekly instalments of ITMA, Hi Gang, Happidrome, and other well-established comedy programmes. The Drama Department based near Manchester collected a superb group of repertory actors who, by the spoken voice alone, could enthral listeners with the classical 'Saturday Night Theatre' or the dark 'Appointment with Fear'.

Music programmes The BBC Symphony Orchestra under its conductor Adrian Boult broadcast from Bedford a concert of symphonies, concertos and other items of the classical genre on a selected evening every week, and all our MV Studios were fully occupied daily for the performance of all categories of music. Dr Thalben Ball gave regular organ recitals on the Studio 1 organ. Works brass and military bands regularly came to give typical concerts. These 30 minute musical contributions were all slotted into the miscellaneous Home and Forces schedules at all times of the day and night, an indication of the attempt to entertain both the Service and civilian audiences wherever they were carrying out their allotted tasks.

A second group of 25 to 30 musicians called either the BBC Revue or Variety Orchestra included instrumentalists which enabled it to play the whole range of light music repertoire as well as accompanying opera, operetta, introducing with well known 'theme tunes' and providing incidental music for variety and drama. It was a theatre orchestra, loosely based at Maida Vale but traveling when needed to any other BBC venues. Conductor Charles Shadwell became as well known as the ITMA cast. Another conductor who was essential to all things Choral was Stanford Robinson. Joining the BBC in 1924 he was the first BBC Chorus Master and in 1932 he set up the BBC Singers, the BBC Chorus and the BBC Choral Society. His war time contribution was invaluable. Having access to any available singers, he managed most weeks to produce in Studio 1, performances of well-known and new choral works and monthly, a concert performance of an opera. His first concert production of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera which we recorded was 'Trial by Jury'. Concerts of ballet music were very popular with listeners. A visiting conductor well liked by the singers was Vaughan Williams who could often be seen wandering along the Maida Vale corridors. His compositions 'On Wenlock Edge', 'Valiant for Truth' and 'Dona Nobis Pacem' were very appropriate at that time.

Dance music and American services If there was any one physical activity that kept us fighting fit in those days, it was Ballroom Dancing. Despite losing many of their players to the Services, the pre-war dance bands, Geraldo, Jack Payne, Jack Hylton and others, kept playing and, to keep up morale, the BBC gave them late night sessions on both the Home and Forces programmes. Victor Sylvester accompanied by his Strict Tempo Band, gave weekly instruction about the correct way to do the dance steps, verbally on the wireless and visually in the cinema. The magnificent 1930s Palais like that in Hammersmith were crowded nightly with 500 couples, at least half in uniforms and army boots circling the sprung maple floors and even the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, now bereft of its International Divas, used its space to become a very popular ballroom dancing venue. During some quiet session in the evening recording schedule, WOs and REs might also have been seen practising the tango or slow foxtrot on the smooth floor of an upstairs vacant studio, the music coming from the studio loudspeaker being provided by a colleague downstairs on the disc playback. The Services made good use, particularly, of the expert brass and woodwind players among ex-dance band recruits for military bands or playing concerts and dances for their own troops. One such group, the RAF Dance Band. was so good that it came often to Maida Vale specially to record sessions which were broadcast on both the Forces and Overseas services. They played much of the music we had enjoyed pre-war from records of the US bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong and I particularly remember their exhilarating performance of 'South Rampart Street Parade'! The group stayed together as 'The Squadronaires' and post-war achieved considerable fame in the very popular 'Big Band' style.

The summer months of 1942 had seen the first arrival of US airmen and other members of the US military into the UK. From The American Eagle Club, a social centre for US airmen we recorded their messages to their families in the US for transmission by the BBC.

For entertainment of the US forces in the UK, US networks sent the BBC recordings of popular comedies,The Jack Benny Show,The Bob Hope Show, Burns and Allen and other series popular on US Radio. Unfortunately for us, these recordings contained an amount of product advertising by the sponsors and this had to be removed before it sullied the pristine BBC air waves. Removing the name of a particular toothpaste from the Bob Hope Show was not too difficult if it was used in an advertising 'break,' but when he referred to it in a joke or his quick-fire repartee, it caused a problem. Fortunately by 1943 the US Forces decided they needed their own separate service in the UK and on July 4th the American Forces Network was inaugurated. The BBC initially provided studio space and undertook all the transmission of the Network to the US. A number of low power transmitters were installed in places near to where US troops were concentrated. These were linked by line to the main transmission system. The two networks often shared or exchanged programmes of mutual interest.

Some special music recordings In February 1943 came the welcome news that the German army surrounding Stalingrad had been defeated, though with appalling losses of life in both armies. As some sort of celebration for some good news from the Russian front, a broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was an all Russian programme, ending with Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony. I recorded this concert on film and played it several times on the Overseas Service so that hopefully, it would be received in Russia. A week later Prokofiev's cantata 'Alexander Nevsky' was sung in Studio 1 by the BBC Chorus and I recorded and broadcast this also. A few days later on our notice board there appeared an internal memo from the Music Department saying that they had been pleased with the quality of the two recordings. This did not happen very often! Another personal internal memo informed me that I was now a Recording Engineer. My SRE seemed to think that I was the first WO in the Recording Section to be so promoted but what I liked was the increase in my pay from £4 a week to £5. I had my best reward when allotted the task of recording a concert on 5th April 1943.

Yehudi Menuhin, the now renowned violinist and former child prodigy whom I had heard on the wireless in my school days, would arrive from the US and be the soloist with Adrian Boult and the BBC SO. As he was being flown over by the US Air Force the Estimated Time of Arrival was uncertain, so I had to be prepared for any possibility.

I spent the morning selecting the sharpest sapphire cutters and doing test recordings on reels of film to find any flaws in the surface coating which might affect the track. He was to play the Brahms Violin Concerto so I examined the score and marked all the appropriate bars for machine Change Overs. Early in the afternoon I was told by the SRE to make a brief visit upstairs. A brief glimpse through the Studio 1 window and I saw the handsome 27 year old chatting to Adrian Boult.

From the "ten seconds from now -" to the final labelling of the reels, I was so busy that I recall nothing of the performance. Fortunately, I had not yet switched off the machines when the soloist filled a few remaining minutes of recording time by playing Bach's Partita No 3 in E. The reels were collected and taken away with the rest of that day's output of recordings. An unrewarding part of our job was that our product, after being broadcast a few times would often be scrapped. Imagine my surprise when the publication BBC Music Magazine / September 1997 issue gave for the free monthly CD, a remastered dubbing of this Menuhin recording which I had made 54 years before, and it included the Bach Partita. Also, in BBC Music Magazine / December 2017 in the series 'Music that changed me,' Gábor Takács-Nagy , violinist and conductor chooses this recording of Menuhin's performance of the Brahms Concerto.

Thanks to the surprising popularity of the 1942 season in the Albert Hall, the 1943 Proms began in mid-June for an eight week summer season Two orchestras, the BBC Symphony and the London Philharmonic and conductors Henry Wood, Adrian Boult and Basil Cameron shared the load. Concerts began at 6.30 pm so that people could be back in time for their nightly and overnight wartime duties.

A Vaughan Williams premiere In May, the portly figure of Vaughan Williams was seen in Studio 1 conducting the LPO, not the BBCSO. During a canteen break a violinist mentioned that they were trying out a new work of VW and that 'he keeps changing bits'. The day shift had been asked to record some of the bits for him to hear. All was revealed when we were told that the first performance of Vaughan Williams' new Symphony No 5 would be performed at the Prom on 24th June. VW was to conduct the LPO himself. Orchestra musicians did not seem to regard VW as being in the top rank of conductors but said that with his own works they always knew what he wanted. As this was a first performance of a work it would be recorded, but as no BBC forces were involved, there was no 'Leningrad' fuss. I would not be on shift that evening. Sheila, an experienced 'oldie' WO whom I knew well, was given the film job. Unlike most of our new WOs who seemed to be largely interested in Drama, I knew Sheila to be a fellow music lover. I also knew that her army husband was helping to defeat Rommel in North Africa.

On the 24th, rather than listen at home on my sad little portable radio, now showing its age, I stayed on after my day shift to hear the evening Prom broadcast. Sheila was happy to have me around to give occasional assistance so, acting as a monitor of the sound quality, I listened to the performance on the excellent loud speaker in the film room cubicle. Another interested WO joined me there.

When the final bars of the Coda died away there was an abnormal silence in the recording room. Sheila had immediately switched everything off before applause or the final announcement! I saw she was trying hard to suppress emerging tears. Without saying a word we two helped her with the routine of rewinding the spools and completing the log. The silence was broken by the SRE's head in the door and 'Everything go OK?'. Over a late cup of coffee we three were alone in the deserted canteen. Sheila said that for her, the Slow Movement had 'got to her'. She nearly missed a change-over and was scared that tears would fall on the sound track. That quiet ending had been the last straw! For me, my mind had gone back to that concert in the Queens Hall in 1939 when, a group of students about to begin our adult lives in a country on the verge of war, we were disturbed by VW's fierce 4th Symphony. Now, 4 years later, having known the reality of conflict, this same composer's 5th Symphony seemed to offer hope that all would be right in the end. But - there was still the ominous cloud of the Second Front on the horizon.

With restriction on newsprint and paper, music criticism in the media was almost non-existent but some notable critics were reported to have been disappointed that VW had not produced something rousing and militant, like Elgar might have done. Adrian Boult however praised the work's "Serene loveliness'' and said "it shows, as only music can, what we must work for when this madness is over."

Three weeks later on the 10th of July 1943, Sheila's husband, in a combined force of British, Commonwealth and US soldiers, invaded Sicily at the start of a prolonged and devastating Italian Campaign.

A week on the farm Our allowance of annual leave was one week. Nine more days called 'bisque' could be used by women for emergencies, bereavement or 'embarkation leave' of a relative. An approved way of getting one week's free holiday was to volunteer for work on a farm. Feeling the need for a breath of country air I applied to go to a 'farm camp' and in the first week in August was on a train to Devon. At the terminus a lorry collected a group of us and left us at a row of huts on a farm in the middle of Dartmoor. Our task was potato harvesting. We worked in pairs, one holding a hessian sack to collect the harvest of potatoes picked up by the other from the rows exposed by a tractor - back breaking work so we needed to swap roles frequently. On our first day we were surprised when an American army vehicle pulled into the field and a young GI handed us some candy bars and invited us to a dance at their camp. That evening an army bus took us to a huge collection of Nissan huts, a Transit Camp for newly-arrived American Service men. A journalist had recently written, 'If one more GI sets foot in Britain, this island will sink into the Atlantic'. Throughout a most enjoyable evening of dancing to a very expert army dance band, these young men chatted to us about their homes and families in Idaho, Illinois or other places. They did not seem to worry about being thousands of miles away. To us, sadly, they were naive schoolboys enjoying their army adventures and seemed blissfully unconcerned about the future. We were amply fed with unusual sandwiches and surprised our hosts by, each of us, grabbing from a large bowl, an orange, a fruit we had not seen for three years. For the remainder of our potato picking week, a US vehicle stopped daily in our field and distributed oranges and very nice chocolate tablets.

Transcription Back at Maida Vale, an internal memo awaiting me said I was being transferred to the Transcription Section. From the daily recorded output, someone called Miss Slocombe, whom no one ever seemed to have met, decided which recording should be permanently preserved for archives. The fragile temporary acetate disc was re-recorded and any extraneous or surface noise was eliminated as far as possible. The new disc would then be electroplated producing a master from which permanent copies could be pressed. It seems, however, that my Menhuin recording had undergone a different process. Post-war, when the German magnetic method of recording on plastic tape had achieved a high quality of sound reproduction, my film recording was re-recorded on magnetic plastic tape from which, subsequently, CDs were produced.

My first job with Transcription was unique. A damaged disc had to be urgently repaired and copied for immediate broadcast. On 3rd September 1943, a Lancaster bomber carrying the War Reporter, Wynford Vaughan Thomas and an OB engineer Reg Pidsley was a part of a '1000 Bomber' raid over Berlin. Clinging on to his portable disc recorder, Reg recorded the voices of the crew and the commentary by Vaughan Thomas. Reg said that it was so cold he had to warm up the uncut discs inside his flying jacket. In the middle of the recording a massive bomb was released and the aircraft rose like a lift and the cutting head dug a deep hole into the disc. Reg roughly plugged the hole with something. We had to make it playable. We must have succeeded as on 14 September 2013, the evening 'Archive Hour' on Radio 4 included recollections of this raid by Vaughan Thomas and, I am glad to say, Reg Pidsley, together with passages from the recording. Vaughan Thomas called it "the most terrifying eight hours of my life". At one point on their return home, the bomber was attacked by a German fighter. Reg had just carried on recording and captured the excited babble of crew's voices directing the gunners, the rattle of machine gun fire and the stern reprimand of the pilot, "Don't all talk at once". When in 1943, this had first been played on the 9pm news, people in the UK were at last actually able to hear and understand the sort of ordeal faced night after night by RAF air crews. I know it made my blood run cold.

Transcription was an 8am to 5pm day job so no more evening or night shifts or spoiled weekends! I could join friends for some sort of a social life. One day, two handsome Canadian Air Force officers turned up and announced that they were my 'cousins.' They were in fact grandchildren of cousins of my father who had emigrated to Canada after WWI. Several other people told me that similar reunions were happening all over. There followed many happy evenings at the cinema, the Palais and Canadian Club. A Saturday outing on a Green Line bus into the Surrey countryside however found lines of camouflaged tanks and armed vehicles occupying every village green, open space and woodland. No comment was made. One day when I was waiting at the kerb to cross Hammersmith Broadway, a policeman stopped the traffic and a column of US tanks thundered along. A GI leaned down from one and pushed a white envelope into my hand and I think he said, "Post this," but immediately, a uniformed arm came over my shoulder and took it out of my hand.

The War Reporting Unit At last, we were told by someone from 'Upstairs' about what was happening elsewhere in the BBC. A completely independent unit, The War Reporting Unit had been assembled which included War-Office-approved censors and editing staff and a team drawn from the News and Documentary sections. We learned about The Midget invented by the BBC Research Department. It was a portable recorder, spring wound with two recording positions, one to cut out background noise and the other which could be opened up to give authentic battle atmosphere. With a clip-on mike and 12 double-sided 10 inch discs slotted inside the lid, it could give 72 minutes' worth of recording. It weighed 42 pounds. Nevertheless, the War Reporters had learned, with some protest, that they had to carry it in a rucksack. Recording vans, better equipped than Belinda, as well as a mobile transmitter with generator and amplifiers mounted on a three-ton truck, would be accompanied by selected engineers. The well-known War Reporters and the engineers took their place in the invasion plan and were given uniforms and an army rank as non combatants.

Mussolini was dead and the Italian government had surrendered in October but the Germans were well-entrenched in Italy. There was also a 'forgotten army' struggling in Burma. Christmas passed with not much celebration. Early 1944 seemed to be shrouded in a veil of secrecy. The whole of the South of England was a huge armed camp in which thousands of uniformed men were quarantined. Everyone else was just waiting. Everyone was awakened early on 6th June by the drone of hundreds of engines. The sky was obscured by a continuous black blanket of planes towing gliders. The Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, Dwight Eisenhower spoke. Following an announcement by John Snagg, a WO in the Control Room in Broadcasting House put the correct jack in the correct socket at the correct moment and connected the SCAEF to the world! At 9pm that evening, the first of the nightly War Reports was listened to by 20 million in the UK and unknown millions on the Overseas and American networks. The BBC's Finest Hour had begun.

The V1 and V2 On the 11th of June, a strange little aeroplane with an engine which sounded like a two stroke motorbike sputtered its way over south London and crashed on a house in Croydon and exploded. By the evening a lot more had followed. A hundred V1s or 'Doodlebugs' as the Londoners called them, would reach London every day causing almost as much death and damage as the 1940 Blitz. We soon learned their behaviour. There was no danger as long as the sound of the engine could be heard but at the end of its range the engine stopped and the plane, which just contained a large bomb, crashed to the ground with a huge blast. Anti-aircraft guns, our 'comforters' during the Blitz, rushed to the coast in the hope of shooting the V1s down into the sea, but were not very successful. The first concert of the1944 season of Proms was given as usual in the Albert Hall on 10th of June despite some official misgivings. These would celebrate Sir Henry Wood's 75th birthday and his Jubilee 50th year as conductor of the Proms. Now having my evenings free, I shared a Prom season ticket with friends. The LPO played for the first two weeks and I went to two concerts conducted by Sir Henry. On 24th June, the LSO began their two weeks of residency, Basil Cameron and Sir Henry sharing the conducting. I went to the concert on the 27th June, using the safest way there, the Underground, as the day had already been 'noisy'. Basil Cameron was conducting and someone was playing a violin concerto when, as had happened at the earlier concerts, a faint distant engine sound could be heard with that of the orchestra, but this time it got louder and louder until it sounded directly overhead. Then the engine stopped and we all, a packed Albert Hall audience, just froze. Seconds, or was it minutes later there was the expected huge bang, somewhere outside. The V1 had glided, as they sometimes did, and come down near South Kensington station. The LSO continued with the second half of the programme but next day the Home Office ruled that the rest of the season be cancelled. So Hitler deprived Sir Henry of his final celebration. The BBC SO broadcast from Bedford the works which would have been heard at the Proms with Sir Henry and Adrian Boult conducting but these were not recorded. This was a pity as on 28th July, Sir Henry conducted a profound performance of the Beethoven 7th Symphony which, all who heard it agreed, was 'that of some brilliant conductor in his early forties'. The BBC SO musicians who had also been inspired said that it was as if he had summoned up all his reserves to give the music its full energy and passion.

Sir Henry died on the 19th August 1944. Henry Wood had played a very significant part in widening my knowledge and love of great music and like many others on that day, I was deeply saddened.

Days later, an explosion suddenly shattered a building in Chiswick. No sound or V1 engine was heard so the BBC News unwisely told us it was a faulty gas main. When, by the end of the day another six gas mains had blown up, it was announced that this was another 'terror' weapon, a rocket. So we were the first to experience the 'shape of things to come'. The weapons descended from 50 miles up at a speed faster than sound so would not be seen or heard in advance. There seemed to be nothing anybody could do so we just had to wait and wait until Montgomery's men slowly fought their way north to capture the launching pads in the Pas de Calais and the RAF to bomb them to rubble. Meanwhile it was the old WW1 saying, "if your number's on it - too bad!" 7,500 were killed in London. The BBC had to suffer a lot of jokes about Flying Gas Mains.

Glen Miller One day news spread that Major Glen Miller and the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force was in Maida Vale canteen. We women rushed upstairs to feast our eyes on these creatures whose romantic outpourings had charmed us on the AFN. We were not disappointed. They were all beautifully dressed in those sleek American Officers' uniforms which were so superior to the British ones. That was the only time we saw them. Whether they did not like Maida Vale coffee or the V1s we never knew, but next day they were whisked away to Bedford and billeted with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Adrian Boult recalls in his memoirs how he watched some of their rehearsals. He describes Glen Miller as a "thorough craftsman who knew just what he wanted and got it." But it was the string section which interested Boult most: twenty players, all from famous orchestras, some of whom, Boult said, had actually played for him in America. Boult liked their 'Strings with Wings' and in November, Miller asked Boult to conduct their AFN concert. They played among other things 'an arrangement for strings by a member of the band, of Debussy's 'Cloud' Nocturne'. Boult was given a copy of the score signed by all the musicians. He says "We certainly missed them when they left Bedford."

BBC - Final Months

In 1945, a woman establishment officer from BH explained that our future employment after the end of the War was undergoing some consideration and she wanted to know what we ourselves had in mind. It was unlikely that we would be retained in the Engineering Division. There might be some jobs if television was reinstated but that may be a long time ahead.

I knew what I wanted to do. I had grown tired of this routine operational work and hoped I could at last work in some scientific field which had been my objective five years ago. Still under the war employment regulations I could not yet leave the BBC but someone told me about the DSIR, The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research which carried out work for government in many spheres. I wrote to them and after an interview my name went on their files.

The war dragged on. The now so familiar War Reporters, Dimbleby, Vaughan Thomas, Maxted, Gillard, Wilmot etc. had, on our behalf, braved the hazards with their fellow servicemen and sent their accounts, sometimes hopeful, often tragic and finally triumphal, for our nightly listening in War Report. Out of our wireless speakers, we had heard the actual sounds from the battlefields. At last there was that peculiar gap, when on 5th May, Gillard reported that the Germans had surrendered to Montgomery, and yet we had to wait until the 8th May to be told officially that the War in Europe was over.

A month later, I began my first day as a scientific officer in one of the sections of the DSIR sited near to London. Three years later, newly married, I would volunteer for transfer to a new DSIR Scottish laboratory which would at some time be sited in the first Scottish New Town of East Kilbride.

I went to the 1945 Prom Season. Probably as a reward for his tireless contribution to the wartime musical life of the nation, all five of Vaughan Williams symhonies were played. No other music could have been more appropriate at that time. In the 1948 Prom Season, Vaughan Williams again astonished us with Symphony No 6. It begins with three movements of savage orchestral outpourings and comes slowly to an end with intense quiet and bleakness, a depiction of the devastation and desolation to be seen everywhere.

In 1949 I moved to Glasgow. We were all picking up our lives again after six 'lost' years. Musically I could not have chosen a better time. That first summer at the newly-founded Edinburgh Festival, I heard the New York Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walther; a young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau giving his first lieder recital; three heartbreaking performances by Kathleen Ferrier and the Glyndebourne 'Marriage of Figaro', and it has continued thus over all the years since. I was soon introduced to the concerts by the BBC SSO in Queen Margaret Drive and the Scottish National Orchestra in the ill-fated St Andrew's Hall. I was at a lot of 'firsts': Scottish Opera's first production, 'Madam Butterfly' conducted by the young Mr Gibson; the first concert in Edinburgh by the newly-formed Scottish Chamber Orchestra; the opening of the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh and of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and the removal of the old brown curtains from the beautiful, newly decorated City Halls. In my living room, a wall of box files, each packed to overflowing with concert programmes, testifies, that in the last 60+ years, I must have listened to music performed by the world's greatest orchestras, conductors, instrumental virtuosi, singers, quartets, trios and chamber groups. Finally, a 90th birthday present was a visit to Vienna, long delayed after that 1938 disappointment. After viewing all the memorabilia of Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart, I was most moved by the tiny room containing some wire spectacles, a pen and little else, the place where, in his last two years, Schubert wrote his last piano sonata, the 9th Symphony and the C Major Quintet.

In 2012, after a gap of many years, I was again at a Prom in the Albert Hall to hear Vaughan Williams. Tears flowed again as Symphonies 4, 5, and 6 were superbly performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Manze. That concert seemed to provide a perfect epilogue to my musical memories.