Music & Life after Stowe

I joined Stowe’s Music Department when preparations were in hand for the 50th anniversary in 1973. My contribution was to compose a cantata, Templa Quam Dilecta (Psalm 84), whose title is the wry motto of the Temple family (How delightful are the temples) adorning the pebble alcove. We performed it in the Queen’s Temple, where among the percussionists was a young Howard Goodall (Lyttelton 76), already a gifted composer. After publication the piece turned up elsewhere, most notably in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

After leaving Stowe I branched out a little. Adult education featured prominently, but I also conducted 270 children in my own opera The Mermaid of Zennor. Opera became a major part of my life as Music Director of Duchy Opera in Cornwall, a highlight being La Traviata at The Minack, an open-air theatre on the cliffs, in perfect weather. I also conducted my own opera, The Hanging Oak, adapted from a ghost story by M. R. James.

At New College Choir School in Oxford, my first teaching post, I’d written a children’s stage musical based on The Hobbit long before the blockbuster films were even a gleam in a producer’s eye. Years later, with Tolkien-mania at its peak, a Radio 4 programme relayed how my project had come about.

I’ve been lucky enough to have my music performed in many exciting locations, the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, Suntori Hall, Tokyo and The Hollywood Bowl. Recently my choral version of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending has gained wide currency, aired by the BBC Singers, Voces8 and the Swedish Chamber Choir, who recorded it with Jennifer Pike on (naturally!) the Chandos label. Please forgive me mentioning too that my book, Unheard Melodies, a non-technical guide to classical music, is available from Amazon. Happy anniversary Stowe!

Paul Drayton (Former staff, 1972–1993)