EPISODES FROM A MEMORY BANK
BILL NEWMAN looks back at
undeservedly neglected musicians
I had just paid my respects to the young English cellist Alice Neary
and pianist Gretel Dowdeswell in the Green Room at London's Wigmore
Hall when someone pulled at my coat sleeve. Looking round I was confronted
by a jolly-looking gentleman, not unlike a 20th century version of Dickens'
'Excuse me, but would I be correct in assuming you to be here in
some kind of professional capacity?' I admitted to being a music critic,
preferring to be an ardent supporter of young, deserving performers. He
smiled. 'Tell me, how old do you think I look?'. I never
venture to guess. His rosy cheeks denoted a lover of the fresh air, perhaps
he'd just returned from a visit to the Himalayas? 'I'm 90.
And would it surprise you to learn that sometime after 1920 I performed
as a member of a woodwind quintet on that platform adjoining this room?'
My interest immediately aroused I enquired the names of the other players.
Reginald Kell, clarinet -- he went on later to America, Terence MacDonagh,
I didn't allow him to progress as visions of great wind principals
in London Orchestras in the last half of the preceding century suddenly
loomed large and clear.
And his name? 'Gwydion Brooke' I almost fainted on the
spot. It was one of those situations where everyone else faded away into
the distance. There was just he and I. I had not seen or heard him since
he last played with the Philharmonia, his golden tones matching a facile,
natural technique in mastery of music of all ages and kinds. Yes, and something
of a legend, despite the serious, unsmiling person backstage. Synonymous
with consistency of effort, he viewed his precious instrument as if it were
a rare Rolls Royce in perfect condition.
Copyright © 5 April 2002
Bill Newman, Edgware, UK
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