A great subject! and even when narrowly limited to the consideration of music in one school, it refuses in its very nature to be bound. When a little girl with any music in her soul first delights in the notes of a thrush’s song or in a grand chord played on a piano, she has begun to enter into a great inheritance to which she herself was born to be an heir.
So teachers of music are dealing with two great things: music, and the child’s capacity for music. They need, therefore, a large equipment, they must be musicians, and they must be possessed by the eagerness of all true teachers to draw out, encourage and strengthen capacities inherent in the pupil.
Godolphin has been rich in such teachers, whether they have come as visitors or have given years of their lives in the service of the School.
Year by year Miss Fanny Davies draws out the love of the best music from all who listen to her distinguished interpretation of the great masters ; and by her great-hearted sympathy she has made the teaching she herself has given, through her inspection of the pianoforte work of the School, an inspiration to further ventures along the path she has pursued, though not one of the many who owe her so much may reach the goal to which she has attained. The teaching given by listening to good music is of the very best kind, and so a tribute of gratitude must be paid to other great ones who have filled the Hall with their music, and, by revealing the best, have cheapened the cheap. Such have been Marie Brema, Muriel Foster, Plunket Greene, Leonard Borwick, Joan Elwes (O.G.), and, quite recently, Jean Stirling McKinlay, and there have been many others.
When it comes to trying to tell the story of the work done for Godolphin by the music staff of the School, it must be said at once that it is impossible to estimate its value accurately or adequately. The work of a music teacher is essentially individual, and the limit of space does not allow of any attempt to describe the contribution made by each one of the teachers of pianoforte, violin, ‘cello, and singing. And yet undoubtedly some stand out as leaders in the musical life of the School as well as for length of service, and those many others whose special work is not mentioned here will be the first to acknowledge this kind of priority. I remember well, thirty-seven years ago, at a’I’est Valley concert observing a young violin player attacking her music with noticeable precision and enjoyment. I asked Mr. Moberly who she was. He said: “It’s Miss Nellie Harding, the leader of my second fiddles.” I said: “I want someone to teach the violin at Godolphin, how about her?” He said: “Take her.” I took her, and there she is still, as keen as ever, and her devoted work for the School has earned for her the affection and gratitude of a great company. In 1893 Bishop Awdry (later of S. Tokio) called upon me and told me of a very musical cousin he had who desired to teach the piano, by name Ethel Awdry. She came, and remained till 1921, and was for many years the senior music mistress and leader of the others. She has a great’ place in the musical life of the School and in the affection of her many pupils, and, indeed, of the whole School. With Miss Awdry was a goodly company of musicians : Miss Rowden (Mrs. Yuille Smith), with her beautiful piano touch, who gave devoted work to the School till she appropriately married a violinist, a master at Rugby; Miss Young, still there with her many pupils in music and French; Miss Mixer, the first woman to become a Mus.Bac., particularly distinguished for her lessons in musical composition and her many capital plans to help forward the music of the School; Fraulein Bechler, Fraulein Fehmer and Fraulein Slevogt, who were all of them musicians and teachers indeed.
Besides the individual lessons given, and firm friendships made in the little music rooms, the music staff have united in planning illustrated lectures to the School on great musicians; musical evenings, a musical library which enables the girls to have a much wider range of music to look at and study than what they possess themselves.
When we turn to the singing in the School, a warm tribute must be paid to Mr. George, whose taste in music was unerring, and who gave hours in London, outside his teaching hours, to searching out choice speciments of old music as well as the best modern songs for his singing classes at Godolphin. And now as singing master there is Dr. Alcock, the distingiushed Cathedral organist, filled with the love and knowledge of the best music, and while he teaches singing he is training the girls in knowledge and love of the same. He is ably helped by Miss Coombs, herself a delightful pianoforte player, as is also Miss Ward, who is now the senior member of the music staff.
I think of the whole number who have contributed to make music one of the special features of the School, as standing in a long line, each possessed with a special gift which they are eager to share with every one of their pupils and to pool for the enriching of the life of the School.