Dorothy Pilling, Composer, Musician, Teacher (1910-1998) – Before We Forget To Remember…and a little about Gertrude Riall

Dorothy Pilling, composer and musician. Her name may not be well-known, yet she taught and inspired many students. My Mother was one of her students in the late 1940s early 1950s and was pleased to speak fondly of “Pill”. (This article also contains some information about Miss Gertrude Riall – see below)

Dorothy Pilling was part of a most remarkable musical phenomenon – the Matthay School of Music, later The Northern School of Music – that existed in Manchester before 1972. Here is a link to a photograph of the Northern School of Music, Oxford Road, All Saints, Manchester. (The photograph is part of the Manchester Digital Music Archive).

Dorothy Pilling was born at 1, Alma Street, Walsden, near Todmorden on 25 May 1910 to Tom Lord Pilling (former Cashier and later Cotton Mill Manager) and Ada Pilling. There were also two older sisters, Kate and Gertrude and an older brother, William. They had a domestic servant by the name of Maud Curtis, who came from London. Tom Lord Pilling was born in Todmorden and his wife was born in Burnley. All the children were born in Walsden. The house still stands.

Dorothy Pilling died 13 January 1998 in Manchester, England. This link will lead you to a page with a photograph of Dorothy Pilling in the 1980s. The photograph is the one at the top lefthand side of the page

Dorothy Pilling was a composer, pianist, flautist and dancer . A teacher at the Northern School of Music, Oxford Road, Manchester until it amalgamated in 1972 with the Royal Manchester College of Music, whereupon, she worked at the new college, nowadays known as the Royal Northern College of Music.

Her duties at the Northern School of Music included the teaching of Composition, Harmony and Counterpoint, Musical Dictation and Aural Training “to Five” – this was the highest level taught in the Northern School.

Dorothy Pilling also taught Dalcroze Eurhythmics to full-time students. Music and Movement was important in schools until the 1960s. When teaching Dalcroze Eurhythmics, she played piano for her own lessons. She was a very gifted Dalcroze Eurhythmics teacher and everybody liked her classes – except so it seems, male students. Many of these were gifted musicians but may have felt that the Dalcroze Eurhythmics were “infra dig” and more appropriate for girls or children. My mother said that the men became taxed too easily by these studies and left the lessons early, to which the female students would laugh. (In 1947, many of them had been in the services or on active service and the attitudes reflect those of the times).

Dorothy Pilling would select movements from Sonatas by Mozart or Beethoven for interpretation in Dalcroze Eurhythmics. She would demonstrate gracefully to the class and wore kid leather dance shoes without points to do this. The venue for these lessons was the Concert Room.

In the same room on Friday mornings, Hilda Collens – Principal of the Northern School – would teach Appreciation of Music. This was done by applying analysis to the works in a technical way.

Between 1947 and 1951, my mother was Dorothy Pilling’s only piano student. She would often say to my mother – when a knotty pianistic problem occurred – that she should see “a real piano teacher”. By this she would mean, that my mother should seek advice from one of the Northern School’s first study piano teachers like Doris Euerby or perhaps Beatrice Rollins or Constance Kay.

Here is a link to a photograph of one of the Northern School Summer outings in 1950.  The photograph is part of the Manchester Digital Music Archive. Dorothy Pilling (centre top row), Beatrice Rollins (2nd row, 3rd from right), Doris Euerby (5th from left, front row) (I think).

Dorothy Pilling born on the edge of the Lancashire and Yorkshire moors, loved to walk in her beloved hills. She was well liked and respected by her students who were all pleased to be in her classes. She had been a student at the Matthay School of Music Manchester, in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This school became the Northern School of Music in 1943 and in the late 1940s, Dorothy Pilling was appointed full-time member of staff.

She also played the flute in the college orchestra and was also especially fond of the works of Debussy and Leo Livens.

Dorothy Pilling was encouraged to compose by Stewart Macpherson 1865-1941, a member of staff at the Royal Academy of Music and later, Dean of the Faculty of Music at the University of London.

Dorothy Pilling composed many piano pieces; duets and solos, as well as songs and other works. Her music remains fresh and light; characterised by strong melodies and late romantic harmony which she improvised well and the pieces are in the main, short. In particular, two sets of piano duets; “Pageantry Pieces” and “Rural Rhythms” are both well worth a performance. Instantly appealing to players and audiences alike, most of her work shows a high degree of compositional craft. Her music remains on the syllabuses of many festivals.

Dorothy Pilling’s songs have been recorded and form part of a CD which also includes music by others. Her book “Harmonising Melodies at the Keyboard” has been a standard text on the subject since it was first printed by Forsyth and Co. in 1950. As a text, it deals with a difficult subject in a most sympathetic way. A second book was printed subsequently, with a Key to the exercises in a third volume.

Dorothy Pilling was bright, pleasant, personable, alert, energetic, effective and efficient. She had very sound knowledge of musical technique as well as classical piano music and modern English piano music.

Material has recently come to light which expands on aspect of Dorothy Pilling’s early life and education. Much of it is from the newspaper archive of the Todmorden and District News. Dorothy Pilling was an enthusiastic member of the Inchfield Bottom United Methodist church, at Walsden, near Todmorden. Dorothy Pilling was also a dancer from a young age and eventually held three LRAM certificates, gained in three consecutive years. She was totally committed as a musician and dancer and throughout her younger years, before she permanently removed to Manchester, she was active in her church as concert organiser and musician. The reviews from the Manchester Guardian are also of interest, referring as they do to a young musician, finding her way on the concert platform. She made some broadcasts in the 1930s from the Manchester studios of the BBC.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 26 August 1921
Letter from W.R.C.C. stating that County Minor Scholarships (Entrance) tenable at the Todmorden County Secondary School had been awarded to…Dorothy Pilling, Roomfield Council (Girls) School

Todmorden and District News – Friday 23 December 1921
Inchfield Bottom U.M. Church
…a splendidly sustained concerted programme included…Miss Dorothy Pilling piano soloist.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 29 June 1923
TRINITY COLLEGE OF MUSIC – Further to the list of successful candidates already published, we have to anounce the success in the Intermediate Division of Miss Dorothy Pilling, Cloughside, Walsden

Todmorden and District News – Friday 2 November 1923
HALLOWS E’EN REVELS – A tremendously successful affair under this heading was promoted by friends of Inchfield Bottom U.M. Church on Tuesday night. There was a good attendance and the many attractions were very novel, including witches’ brew, love balm, magic flight, and dances by fairies and elves, Mrs A. Taylor was the accompanist, and the evening’s programme included an opening speech by the chief witch, songs, witchcraft, a fascinating dance by Miss Dorothy Pilling, the whole concluding with the thrilling ghosts’ entry. All had a real good time.

Todmorden Secondary School – 4 September 1925 – Dorothy Pilling obtained School Certificate of 3 credits and distinction in English.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 19 March 1926
Last Saturday and Tuesday evenings, there were crowded audiences in Inchfield Bottom U.M. schoolroom to witness performances of the operetta “Sylvia.” The operetta was organised by the Girls’ Guild, who were assisted in the training by Mr. J. Crowther (choirmaster) and Mrs. A. Kingsbury. It would be impossible to single out any particular character, for all the performers carried out their parts with the utmost credit, and contributed to an enjoyable time. The operetta is in two acts, and the eurhythmic dances were a special feature, and were prettily and gracefully executed. Miss Dorothy Pilling was the principal dancer…

Todmorden and District News – Friday 19 November 1926
Examination Successes – In the higher school certificate examinations of the Northern Universities…Dorothy Pilling passed in two subjects at the subsidiary standard.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 11 January 1929

We have pleasure in offering congratulations to Miss Dorothy Pilling, of Walsden, on her recent success at the Royal Academy of Music examinations for the licentiate’s diploma in piano teaching.

Miss Pilling gained the diploma at the earliest possible age, and with a very high percentage of marks, being bracketed with Mr. Jack Davis*, the brilliant young Manchester pianist.

Both are students at the Matthay School of Music, Manchester, where Miss Pilling went two years ago after being a pupil of Mr. John Crowther F.R.C.O., for several years.

We look forward to further successes from Miss Pilling in the not far distant future.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 15 March 1929
Musical – Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M., of Henshaw, was one of the artistes at a concert which was given on Tuesday afternoon in Messrs. Lewis’s Ltd., Manchester, in aid of the British Sailors’ Society. The concert was given by the Matthay School of Music, of which Miss Pilling is a pupil.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 1 November 1929
LOCAL PIANIST’S RECITAL – Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M., appeared in a recital at the Tudor Galleries last Friday. “The Manchester Guardian,” in a notice on the recital, says that Miss Pilling “showed a clean touch and a fluency that made, for instance, the latter part of the Bach F sharp minor fugue given very pleasant to hear. Where there were fewer notes to the bar, she was less successful, rhythm and phrasing seeming to need velocity to keep them quite satisfactory.”

Todmorden and District News – Friday 9 May 1930
We are pleased to note the further success of Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M., at the Easter examinations at the Royal Academy of Music, London, in gaining the diploma of L.R.A.M. in the aural training examination. This examination comprises class teaching, aural training, pianoforte playing, etc., all of which combine to make a very thorough test in musicianship.

It is only about a year ago since Miss Pilling gained the L.R.A.M. diploma in the pianoforte teacher’s class, and we now wish to offer our heartiest congratulations on her distinction in gaining this diploma a second time, and especially in such an important branch of work as aural training.

We understand that Miss Pilling is still continuing her work at the Matthay School of Music, Manchester, where she has been a student for the past three and a half years, and where she has received her training in connection with the above examination.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 19 September 1930
Inchfield Bottom Church – Another Musical Treat

Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M., of Henshaw Road, Walsden, on Tuesday evening organised her second concert on behalf of the funds of Inchfield Bottom U.M. Church, and once again one felt much indebted to her. Not only was the concert a noteworthy success musically, but it resulted in the substantial profit of £7 10s.

The concert was enjoyed by a large and enthusiastic audience, and so great was the applause that the artistes had to respond time after time with encores. Miss Pilling and Mr. John Davies, L.R.A.M., of the Matthay School of Music, Manchester (who in the near future will leave this country to further his musical studies in Germany), were pianists of fine technique, and in Mozart’s Sonata in D for two pianofortes, excelled themselves. Such playing by artistes so young had rarely been heard in this district.

Miss Dorothy Fielden, a pianoforte pupil of Miss Pilling, gave a performance of distinct promise, while the vocalists, Miss Mary Fielden, soprano, and Mr. W. Sutcliffe, baritone, where heard to effective advantage. Variety was introduced by Miss Pilling’s class of rhythmic dancers, whose work was distinguished by gracefulness and smartness, while a pleasing number was an action song by a kindergarten class.

(Programme follows). Sonata in E Flat (Beethoven) 1st mvt, Dorothy Pilling; Andante and Scherzo, Sonata in F Minor (Brahms), John Davies; Piano Duets – Gipsy Suite (Edward German), Dorothy Pilling and John Davies; Piano solos Rigaudon (Arthur Hunton) and Hobby Horse (Leo Livens), Dorothy Pilling; Piano solos El Puerto and Tango (Albeniz) and Capaneo (Stanford), John Davies; Sonata in D for Two Pianofortes (Mozart), Dorothy Pilling and John Davies.

Todmorden and Ditrict News – Friday 15 May 1931
Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M. –
We are very pleased to note a further success of Miss Dorothy Pilling, of Henshaw Road, Walsden, who has gained the L.R.A.M. in harmony, counterpoint and composition at the Easter examination of the Royal Academy of Music, London. For some years now Miss Pilling has been a student at the Matthay School of Music, Manchester, and has now the distinction of holding three L.R.A.M. diplomas, viz., pianoforte teaching, aural training, and for harmony and composition. We congratulate Miss Pilling on her success.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 25 September 1931
Musical Feast at Walsden – Concert at Inchfield Bottom

Concert promoters are not always able to cater for the serious lover of music without incurring, to a certain extent, the displeasure of those usually described as “average listeners.” Although the concert given in Inchfield Bottom U.M. School, Walsden, on Tuesday night was not of the definitely “highbrow” type, it was obviously appreciated by the musicians and keenly enjoyed by that large section of the community that lacks the technical knowledge to understand most of the technicalities of musical art. Few concerts succeed so well in satisfying the two demands as did Tuesday’s event. Perhaps this was due largely to the fact that the artistes, for the most part, were local people, who have establishes a sound reputation for themselves in the district. The programme was admirably arranged and might be taken as an example by promoters of similar events who believe that the only way to assure a good audience is to put on third rate material. The event was arranged by Miss Dorothy Pilling L.R.A.M., on behalf of the school funds, and the attendance fully merited the venture. Some disappointment was caused by the fact that Mr. John Davies*, the eminent pianist, was unable to fulfil his engagement as he was detained on the continent by urgent business. In Mrs. Lavinia Wood, a deputy whose skill as a pianist never fails to satisfy the critical listener, was secured.

Pianoforte music constituted the greater portion of the programme. Wireless and gramophones have caused pianos to be badly neglected in recent years, and it was a pleasure to hear such brilliant artistes as Mrs. Wood and Miss Pilling. Both in execution and interpretation they revealed a cultured musical outlook and in their duets there was an unmistakable balance and sympathy. The two pianists neglected none of their opportunities in three of Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances,” with which they opened the programme. The items chosen were the dances in G Minor, E Minor and C. Later Miss Pilling contributed a solo with Mrs. Wood as accompanist. The duet for two pianofortes, “Variations on a theme by Beethoven” (Saint-Saens), was played with imagination. Miss Pilling scored a success with her solo, the finale from “Carnival Scenes in Vienna” (Schumann).

Todmorden and District News – Friday 25 March 1932
MISS DOROTHY PILLING L.R.A.M., on Tuesday night took part in a recital in the Milton Hall, Manchester, by students of the Matthay School of Music. “The solo in Mozart’s work,” wrote G.A.H. in Wednesday’s Manchester Guardian; “was undertaken by Miss Dorothy Pilling, whose clean touch and style should make her an excellent exponent of this master. The opening movement rippled along pleasantly, and the andante found the player ready with sensitively controlled fingers for the romantic passages they had to portray. It was good to find the pianist so absorbed in the poetry of this unique movement. The finale was accurate in notes, but was scarcely made as living as the previous sections; the effect was a little bit ‘square.’ The performance as a whole merited high praise, for on its own level it was assured both in execution and expression.”

Todmorden and District News – Friday 30 September 1932
Concert at Inchfield Bottom –
The concerts which have been organised for several years by Miss Dorothy Pilling L.R.A.M., at Inchfield Bottom Methodist School have come to be regarded as affairs of unusual interest by local music lovers. Last Tuesday night, when Miss Pilling, along with a number of other well-known artistes appeared in a well-balanced programme, which included pianoforte solos, duets, songs, recitals and rhythmic dances, there was a large and thoroughly appreciative audience, many visitors coming from other parts of the district. The items had been admirably arranged, and the artistes gave a performance that was gratifying in every detail. The programme opened with pianoforte duets, Miss Millicent Webster L.R.A.M., and Mrs. Lavena Wood, L.R.A.M., playing Rustic Dance and Jig from “Merrie England” (Edward German). Later, Miss Webster played a study in D flat by Chopin and Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in E minor. Miss Dorothy Pilling was heard in two notable pianoforte items “Toccata in C” (Schumann) and the last movement from Mozart’s “Concerto in A,” Mrs. Wood playing the orchestral accompaniments on a second piano.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 25 November 1932
Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M., who has figured prominently as a student at the Manchester branch of the Matthay School of Music, was one of the artistes who took part in the branch’s annual concert on Tuesday night. Miss Pilling, stated G.A.H. in Wednesday’s “Manchester Guardian,” gave a movement from Beethoven’s Concerto in C Major, and Miss Dorothy Hague followed with the first movement of the Grieg Concerto, both players exploiting a neat style in music demanding continuous velocity. Neither has yet attained to the exuberance of sentiment, which is the one quality that gives driving force to these solo parts when they are engaged in embroidering the orchestral material; but if sensibility is present freedom of utterance should not be far behind.” Dr. Walter Carroll, who presided over the fifth annual distribution of awards which preceded the concert, congratulated the school on its work and commended its youthful energy and progressive spirit.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 23 December 1932
Messiah at Mankinholes Methodist Church –
…In the evening, in accordance with the usual custom, members of the choir paid a visit to Stansfield View (Todmorden Workhouse), there to render selections from “The Messiah” for the benefit of the inmates. Supporting the choir were Miss Lavinia Wood L.R.A.M., and Miss Dorothy Pilling, L.R.A.M., who played pianoforte solos and duets.

Todmorden and District News – Friday 16 December 1932

Tuesday 20 December 1932 – Miss Dorothy Pilling as accompanist in the Todmorden Glee and Madrigal Society Lecture Recital; Lecturer John Crowther F.R.C.O.

Wednesday 20 April 1932 – BBC North Regional – 6.30, Northern Studio Orchestra, directed by John Bridge; Dorothy Pilling (pianoforte); John Fanshaw (tenor).

Wednesday 31 August 1938 – Northern BBC – 6.op.m. – Lily Allen (soprano); Dorothy Pilling (piano)

Tuesday 16 May 1939 – BBC Regional – 1.15 – Manchester Midday Concerts Society: Recital by Dorothy Pilling (piano) and Vida Hartford (soprano), accompanist Dora Gilson; from the Milton Hall, Manchester

Compositions by Dorothy Pilling:

The Hills of Fairyland – Seven Pieces for Pianoforte (1935) 1. Light on the Hills 2. The Horns of Elfland 3. River Magic 4.The Hounds of Spring 5. Moonrise 6.Forest Whirlwind 7. Silent Hills
Snowflakes – (piano)
The Nymphs Tread Out Their Ground – (piano)
Lament – (piano)
Summer Wind – (piano)
River Mist – (piano)
The Wind Stirs The Pines – (piano)
The Woodfire Burns Low – (piano) (1957)
Music for Clarinet – Seven Simple Pieces with Piano Accompaniment
Pageantry Pieces – Piano Duet
Rural Rhythms – Piano Duet (Duets of Equal Difficulty)
Playtime (piano) – written for ABRSM (Copyright Oct 4 1938)
Philomela (piano) – written for ABRSM
Roundabout (piano) – written for ABRSM
Minuet in G (piano) – written for ABRSM
Vignettes (for Piano) 1. Idyll 2. Mirages 3. Promenade
The Junior Book – 34 Original Rhythmic Games
Three Sketches for Clarinet – (1963 Forsyth and Co Chappell and Co)
Five and Twenty Rhythmic Games (Piano music for the development of free movement, for use in Nursery and Junior School) Forsyth 1936
Collected Songs (including one with Recorder obbligato) – Forsyth and Co:
Three Jolly Gentlemen
Jenny Kissed Me
The Splendour Falls
Silver Point
Harmonization of Melodies at the Keyboard Bks I II (Book III is the key to the exercises)
Eleven Tests of Musicianship and Intelligence – (For piano teacher’s diploma)
The Junior Orchestra – Music for Flute

(*John Davies (1910-1940) born and died in Manchester. Possessed of a phenomenal musical memory, John Davies took a scholarship at the Matthay School of Music. Leaving Manchester, he studied in Berlin at the Musikhochschule. Subsequently he became a private pupil of Frederic Lamond (1868-1948), a former pupil of Franz Liszt. He gave many recitals in Switzerland before he returned to England. At first, he gave many concerts and frequent broadcasts from Belfast and then came to be known in England. He made his debut in England with the Halle Orchestra in February 1939 under William Rees. With the same orchestra and under Sir Thomas Beecham in 1940 he played a Mozart concerto. Having played, he took a seat in the body of the hall to listen to the remainder of the concert. The Manchester Evening News reported (Tuesday 28 February 1939) “…his technique was breath taking . . . there is no other word for it.”)

About The Matthay School of Music, Manchester (The Northern School of Music)

From wikipedia: When the Matthay School (Manchester Branch) opened in 1920 Hilda Collens (Principal) and Mildred Esplin were the only teachers – they had founded in 1919 a summer course, which had become an annual occurrence and was to last until 1971. In the school’s second year Gertrude Riall (see below) – later remembered as the teacher who taught the children in the world famous Nymphs and Shepherds record – (singing) and Kathleen Forster (violin) were appointed. Full and part time teacher numbers subsequently increasing.

Notable teachers included Maurice Clare, Conductor of the 3YA Orchestra, New Zealand and later Leader and Concert Master of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Orchestra (violin), Reginald Stead, Leader of BBC Northern Orchestra (violin), John Wilson (piano), Archie Camden Principal Bassoonist BBC Symphony Orchestra and later Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (bassoon), Irene Wilde (piano), Eileen Chadwick (piano), Sydney Errington, Halle Orchestra (viola), Ellis Keeler (also Guildhall School of Music and Drama (singing), Adelaide Trainor (speech & drama) and Dorothy Pilling (piano).

About Gertrude Riall (1895-1979)

Reading through this article again prompted a search – after seeing an admirable play with music by Victoria Wood. The search was now on for Gertrude Riall, of whom I had heard my mother speak many many times – “Miss Riall” she called her. Having unearthed the following material via and some old newspapers that only led to more questions, for what it is, here is the information:

(Elizabeth) Gertrude Riall lived in Manchester, in an area of the city called Victoria Park. This information comes from the Manchester area GPO Telephone Directories from 1929 to 1939. Here are the details as written in the book: “Riall Gertrude , 2 Langdale rd, Vic park Rusholme 611” (1929). The details again which mark the changes in numbers which came about with the automation of much of the city’s exchanges in the 1930s: “Riall Gertrude, 2 Langdale rd, Vic park 14, RUSholme 4611″ (1931, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 39). After this period, Gertrude Riall may have moved out to Altrincham.

Gertrude Riall was appointed assistant to Walter Carroll when he was adviser in Music to Manchester Corporation. Together, they visited at least Bristol but possibly other towns and cities in England – Carroll lecturing on “The Choice and Teaching of School Songs” and Gertrude Riall singing the illustrations. Such a visit was reported in the Western Daily Press of 25th October 1924. This visit however was to give a lecture run under the auspices of a private body; in this case “The West of England Musical Education Society and Froebel Society”.

The story of the formation of the Manchester School Children’s Choir is well documented. Recently the making of the record with Hamilton Harty and the Halle Orchestra in 1929 was the inspiration behind Victoria Wood’s play with songs, “That Day We Sang” . The play is everything that it set out to be and is well-constructed and the whole entertainment is thoroughly enjoyable.

The 1929 record itself is also wonderful – and if you have not ever heard it, you must now. Here is a link.

There Are Two Sides to a Record…
It is often overlooked too that the children that day also recorded the “Dance Duet” from Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel”. Here is a link. This is – as my mother pointed out many times – a much more difficult song than “Nymphs and Shepherds”, wonderful though it is . “Dance Duet” has many changes of key and the intonation of the choir – as well as the many rubato and two-part passages – is exemplary for the period. The singing is musical, lithe and accurate. In fact, this jewel of a record should be heard as often as the other side. It stands as a testimony to the great work of Miss Riall.

If you listen carefully, there is a helping voice from Miss Riall at 0.41 exactly – a little later too – and who could blame her? This is a lady who knows that the conductor had little sympathy with her choir and so she joins in to reassure her children. It was exactly the correct thing to do. The result is magnificent! Her singing voice says to the children “Trust Me and All Will Be Well” and in doing so, together, they bring off the performance of a lifetime!

Although the recording was a “first”, the choir idea was not original however and if you read about The Maia Singers, you will see that there was a major precedent for this work, already happening in the neighbouring borough of Stockport. Here is a link.

The Manchester School Children’s Choir continued to meet and make the occasional broadcast until the outbreak of the second war in September 1939. The choir was not reformed after the cessation of hostilities however. Here are some details of broadcasts.

Here are some details of broadcasts made by the choir in the 1930s.
Thursday April 21st 1932
North Regional Programme (626 kc.) (479.2m.).
6.35 pm The Northern Studio Orchestra directed by John Bridge;
The Manchester School Children’s Choir conducted by Gertrude Riall ; Edna Jamieson (accompanist).

Thursday April 6th 1933
North Regional
(624kc.) (480m.).
6.30 :- A Concert by the Manchester School Children’s Choir and Orchestra:
musical adviser, Dr. Walter Carroll ; chorus mistress, Gertrude Riall ;
accompanist Edna Jamieson.

Monday May 7th 1934
North Regional
(668kc.) (449.1m.).
7.10-7.55 :- Music out of school, by The Manchester Elementary Schools Choir and Orchestra,
conductors Gertrude Riall and Eric Fogg; accompanist, Edna Jamieson*

Saturday June 5th 1937
Northern (668kc.) (449.1m.).
7.45pm Ladies’ Choir of the Manchester Matthay School of Music, conductor, Gertrude Riall,
accompanist Bessie Hales

A small memoir of Miss Gertrude Riall

At a distance of seventy years, few people can remember their teachers and their sayings, however, mother did try and remembered the following details about Miss Gertrude Riall. During mother’s time as a student at the Northern School of Music (1947-1951) Miss Riall ran the college choir, one year this included studying and performing “Hiawatha” by Samuel Coleridge Taylor.

“Miss Riall was not tall and she never lost her North East of England accent (she was born in South Shields area) – she never tried to fancy herself up with a posher accent. She worked with her stick (baton) in her hand; and when it went down, she said the truth “We have a few cats over there.” She was something to be reckoned with and the staff of the Northern School knew that. The whole Northern School sang in that choir on Friday morning. The job was to come to the choir and that was that.

“We performed ‘Hiawatha’. Certain things were done; she was a very particular teacher. She knew what she wanted and also welcomed people who were not first or second study singers. She called the tenors and basses “Gentlemen” and they knew she was THE lady and that she did not miss anything. Everybody did their best for her.

Miss Riall was always very businesslike – greeted at the front door of the NSM by ‘Griff’ with “Ah! Miss Riall,” she would answer “I haven’t got time to talk.” She was not about ‘making friends’ but rehearsals would start with a funny story and a laugh for as she said, “A laugh makes you sing better.” She did not undertake any of the one to one vocal teaching at the NSM, that was done by Miss Irene Wilde.”

Mother felt that Miss Riall might not have been properly valued by some. “But there were no dissenters at choir and everybody came week by week.”

The old Northern School of Music in Manchester fronted Oxford Road, one of the main routes into the city centre from the south side and always heavy with traffic. Memorably one summer term morning, Miss Riall asked “…and can we have some windows open? But, we don’t want too many because they’ll be listening and if you do it like that, there’ll be an accident.” (MJM 2017)

Gertrude Riall’s brief within the City of Manchester was ultimately as a Music Adviser to the Education Committee. She oversaw the standards of music teaching in the classrooms of secondary and primary schools. She visited both heads of music in schools as well as those who were training to become music teachers. She was interviewed for BBC Look North news programme (from Manchester) on Tuesday 17 June 1975 by Richard Duckenfield. He interviewed her along with Stanley Rose about the 50th Anniversary on 18th June 1975 of the making of the historic recording. It is not clear whether this interview still exists. Gertrude Riall married in 1957 and died in Hereford aged 84 in 1979 and her name was entered in the Memorial Book of the Friends of the Musicians’ Chapel. Here is a link.

*(Edna Jamieson, the accompanist to the Manchester School Children’s Choir later became a music mistress at Stockport High School for Girls became Music Director for the Maia Singers in 1962 having been associated with that choir since 1954).


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