One of my earliest musical memories was, I imagine, rather different from that of most people. Dad was Managing Director of Wilson Peck in the early 1970’s; a name that will be familiar to many Sheffield folk as ‘The Home of Music’, prominent as it was on the corner of Pinstone Street and Barker’s Pool, where its one o’clock time signal still sounds today over 40 years later.
Sunday mornings - after church, of course - often resulted in ‘just calling into the shop’. This could be the flagship store, to take a sneaky peak at a newly arrived state of the art Hammond organ, or sometimes to Lenton Street, a back-street workshop where dust motes sparkled in the sunlight that beamed down from the high windows. Pianos were in various stages of disarray but were slowly, lovingly, being restored back to health to be sold onto a new generation of music lovers. But, on occasion, our trip was to the grand Oval Hall of City Hall for which Wilson Peck – in those days – ran the box office.
Memories of one such Oval Hall morning came flooding back in January this year whilst enveloped in the colours of the glorious Grand Henry Willis III, 4,037 pipe organ as I joined my fellow singers of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus to record ‘Awake, Arise!’. My flashback was to the first time I had heard that magnificent instrument. I was perhaps 4 or 5 years old and sitting beside Reginald Dixon on the organ stool, my legs swinging. Mr Dixon had apparently had his first keyboard lessons at Wilson Peck many years earlier – a little known fact that my canny Dad was harnessing to help with concert promotion opportunities. Taking advantage of an empty hall to get in some practice time, he kindly broke off to share a few words with me and my big sister (all of 7 years old). And there the memory fades slightly but I am reliably informed he asked if we had any requests, to which I apparently piped up “Teddy Bear’s Picnic please”! But that is where the sound quality of those distinctive introductory bass notes came flooding back early this year. In the present, as I heard the final triumphant organ chords of Darius Battiwalla’s powerful arrangement of ‘O Holy Night’ I was transported back in time to that Sunday morning 40 years ago. Long may we have the honour of that glorious instrument filling our senses.
The Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and the Black Dyke Band recorded their new Yorkshire-flavoured Christmas CD - Awake, Arise! in Sheffield City Hall on 26-27 January 2015
Awake, Arise! is available to pre-order from http://www.sheffieldphil.org/awakearise.php and is released on 20th November.
Come and hear us in the City Hall Ballroom on Saturday 24th October at 1.30 as part of the Classical Sheffield Festival, or in the main City Hall (with organ!) for our afternoon or evening Christmas Concerts with the Black Dyke Band on Saturday 12th December.
Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus website - www.sheffieldphil.org