by Jean Sunderland
Music has always been a part of the life of my brother and myself and I recall events by the music I remember at the time.
My brother, David, was always in the church choir from the age of six and he could read music before he could read words properly. He has now moved to Warwick and joined the choir of the local church.
I had a piano as a girl and a local lady gave me lessons, I remember playing " If you ever go across the sea to Ireland and " Tales of the Vienna Woods ". I always wondered what Ireland was like and if Vienna was as lovely as the words made out. I have since visited both places and found them wonderful.
My friend was an only child and they had more money than us so she was the first to own a record player but she only had one record, Ann Shelton singing " Lay Down Your Arms ". She played this day and night at full volume and could be heard from our house, which was quite a distance from hers. My father would shout " I wish she would hurry up and lay down her b***** armsĒ.
My brother and I were always to be found at the Town Hall, our favourite being the Chris Barber Jazz Concerts. I also saw Frankie Vaughan there and thought what a handsome man he was with such a powerful voice.
We had our own skiffle group when Lonnie Donegan was in vogue. My brother had a tea chest with a broom handle and string to make the sound, I had my mothers washing board and a thimble making out I was Nancy Whiskey various friends had comb and paper, tambourine (home made of course) and a few bells we had acquired from a jumble sale. What would the modem youth think of our home made entertainment?
I think a very good music teacher at my school gave me an extra love of music. One term we studied Carmen and I was enthralled. I still like Carmen to this day.
Bill Haley came to Birmingham to the Odeon, New Street and that was another adventure. I really wanted to see this band, which was all the rage at the time but people, camped down New Street to be sure to get a ticket. My parents would not hear of me and my friend camping out so her twin brother and his friend did the honours and they managed to get four tickets. The great day arrived but getting into the theatre was almost impossible. The crowds were so great that people were on top of the bus shelters and when the doors opened the crush of people went through the plate glass window of the shop next door which happened to be Raymond's Hair Salon. Raymond was very famous in his day as Mr. Teezy Weezy and he showed hairstyles on the television. Once inside the concert was great but there was a bouncer at the end of each row and you were not allowed out of your seat except with permission to go to the toilet.
Years later my husband and I went to a Ray Conniff concert at the Town Hall but it was the day after the bombings at the Tavern In the Town. New Street. It was a great concert but the atmosphere was awful. If anyone left their seat for whatever reason everyone looked around to see if they had left anything under the seat.
This also happened at an open-air concert we went to at Ragley Hall, again just after the bombings. Everyone took a picnic and some even took the tables, chairs, candelabra etc and sat in full evening dress. We parked our deck chairs next to a picnic basket that happened to be on the ground. No one came to that picnic basket and we were beginning to panic. Did it contain an explosive device or had we been watching too much television?
When three-quarters of the way through the concert no one had come to avail themselves of its contents we called over a policeman. In his usual I am in charge policeman's fashion he kicked said picnic basket which luckily for him only contained sausage rolls, sandwiches etc.
We are now members of the James Last Appreciation Society and attend his concerts at the NIA. He only comes once every two years and the concerts are eagerly awaited by our friends and us.
I have many more happy musical memories and still enjoy a wide variety of music.Edís comment-Thank you Jean for a delightful article, there must be a few more of the members who would like to share their memories with everyone.
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