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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Sixty years and he's bedded in

It's Maundy Thurday. The Queen hands out money to the poor, or some such. I've never read it up, it doesn't interest me. For me the day resonates for quite another reason.

I've posted about it before and I ask you to forgive me if you remember. You could say Maundy Thursday widened my world.

I was working in the fifties at Bingley, West Yorkshire, as a hack reporter. Long hours covering the sort of events dealt with at length in weekly newspapers: court cases about child molestation, school speech days, early and late shows put on by the Chrysanthemum Society, gymkhanas, church annual meetings, amateur dramatics. And music.

On two Maundy Thursdays, a year apart, I was assigned to write about performances of Bach's St Matthew Passion  at Bingley Parish Church. I was aware of Bach. I owned an LP of Albert Schweitzer playing the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the organ in Gunsbach in Alsace ("The organ is out of tune," noted The Gramophone in its review). I can't pretend either performance overwhelmed me; the process more resembled laying down mulch on a garden in Spring. But something, I think, was born on those two Thursdays.

Gradually Bach's distinctive voice sang out to me over the decades and it is now impossible for me to imagine being without Vengerov bowing the Chaconne on an unaccompanied violin, DF-D as one of the soloists in the Christmas Oratorio, any of four pianists doing the Goldberg.

The experience came full circle last year when we heard Sir Simon Rattle with the CBSO doing the St Matthew in Birmingham. An identifiable thread in an ill-directed life. How important? Perhaps the equal of my right foot. I could hobble but it wouldn't be pleasant.


  1. Bingley in the 50's was enough to make anybody appreciate JSB

  2. Anon: It was no place to pass one's adolescence. I was convinced that another year or two and I'd have ended up being buried in Bingley Cemetery (Manager: A.Plews), the male equivalent of an old maid. Not as fanciful and/or as paranoid as you might think, since Bingley was host to large swathes of youngish woman facing their version of this fate.

  3. I had a look at Wikipedia for Bingley.

    Here is their fame list:
    The Ickeringill family, which included the noted Chartists Isaac Ickeringill (b. 1803) and his brother George (b. 1810) [9][10] and Ira Ickringill (spelling accurate) (b. 1836), the Bradford mill founder,[11] inventor and Mayor of Keighley,[12] were born, raised and lived in Bingley.

    Percy Vear Professional Boxer. Born Crossflatts, Bingley, July 12, 1911

    Fred Hoyle Astronomer. Born Bingley, 24 June 1915

    John Braine Author of Room at the Top. Worked in Bingley Library until 1942.

    Chris Spence Journalist. Born Bingley 8 June 1970

    Peter Sutcliffe Serial Killer. Born Bingley 2 June 1946

    Rodney Bewes Actor, most famous role Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads. Born in Bingley 27 November 1938.

    Muriel Aked Actress, born 9 November 1887 in Bingley, died 21 March 1955 in Settle.[13]

    William Twiss, (1745–1827), Royal Engineer and designer of the Martello Tower, lived in Bingley on retirement and is buried in All Saints Church, Bingley.

    Not many of those you would want to be associated with, and no claim to fame for music.

  4. John Braine, was born in Bingley and attended St Bedes. A double whammy.No wonder he moved south.

  5. Sir Hugh: I'd make an exception for The Chartists, a popular movement in Victorian Britain aimed at kicking government's arse towards a selection of civil rights: votes for those who weren't rich, pay for MPs (so that the poor could stand for Parliament), plus other desirable improvements.

    John Braine spoke to sixth-formers at Bingley GS about how to write a novel; I reported on this for the Keighley News. He was also a member of Bradford Writers Circle and Mum got him to inscribe my copy of Room At The Top..

    I encountered Fred Hoyle at his mother's funeral at Gilstead PC where I was taking a list of the mourners. He was a well known public figure in Britain, supporting contrarian views about cosmology. He also wrote a fairly well received novel - sci-fi, I believe.

    Peter Sutcliffe moved to a house very close to ours at Leylands Lane.

    As to music Bingley had a well-established music festival which had an instructive, if occasionally tedious, competition. One afternoon I listed to over a dozen performances on the piano of a dance by Granados. A couple of days later I called in at Wood's and bought an EP of it played by José Iturbi. Listening to solo singing comps was quite useful since it demonstrated how widely the human voice could vary in tone and timbre; the downside was you could get teed-off pretty quickly having to listen to some blandish song sun over and over.

    The Bingley Music Festival is still going (having moved from the secondary school to Myrtle Park) but with one big difference; these days it's pop.

    Anon: He didn't just move south (the Isle of Wight, I believe), he also became a blowhard Tory. I knew about his catholicism. One of his later novels was based on an RC assassin who forced his victims to utter the liturgy at length before he blew their brains out. I recall one reviewer saying: I don't believe a word of this. Eventually he was forced to accept that as a novelist he was a one-trick pony; thus he wrote More Room At The Top, or possibly Room At The Top On Ice. But by this time I'd moved south too and had lost interest in him.

  6. Now you have listed your connections with these people I will add that one of the current Ickeringill daughters was a girlfriend of mine way back before I was married. Father got to know about this somehow and was attracted by the snob value of this liaison, but circumstances eventually disappointed him.