The Howells project is continuing. Paul Spicer shared a number of details with me, as did Adrian Partington in Gloucester. Both of these men, former students of Howells from the end of HH’s teaching days in the 1970s, complemented each other in what they remembered, what they shared, and even how they told stories. I was happy to keep probing, and to hear the reminiscences.
The centerpiece of the HH research this trip was the visit with Sir David Willcocks. I have blogged about him previously this trip, of course, but I find him very much on my mind as I return home.
Sir David is now nearly 93 years old. He’s small of stature, although I imagine in his day he stood taller. He can still command a room! His most striking attribute: his eyes. They twinkle and sparkle. And he has a perpetual smile that makes his eyes seem even more kind and wise.
Sir David spoke several times of the importance of having fun whilst singing. I asked him about this, and got exactly the explanation I expected: those who sing should find it enjoyable, for more and better work will be accomplished when the choir is having fun, and the community that the fun creates will translate into joy and meaning and substance in the choral sound.
Dressed in his dark corduroy trousers, a striped shirt with tie, and a gray cardigan, a pot of tea on the table between us in the drawing room, Sir David sat in his chair and talked of his youth and early training. When I probed him for more about Howells, he responded with happiness and wisdom. I was aware the whole time that I was in the presence of one of the gods of music in the UK (and the world), but I felt as though I was just talking to a trusted and respected elder. Of course, having one of the Corgis dozing at my feet (and resting on one of those feet) made for a cozy and homey atmosphere.
The next steps are to seek out a few more people who knew Howells, before they slip away from us, and see what kind of scholarly product I can glean from the recordings and notes that I started this week.