Music at Poundswick
One of my strongest memories of Poundswick is that it was always full of Music. If, as a pupil, you had the slightest interest in music - singing, playing or just listening - there was encouragement, guidance and enthusiastic help at hand in enormous quantities. My own musical talents were extremely limited but nonetheless I was persuaded to join the Senior Choir and then the Madrigal Group and I am proud to reveal that I eventually graduated to a modest position in the Poundswick Philharmonic itself, playing the timps after its incumbent percussionist had moved on to pastures new. What joyous times these were; the realisation at a tender young age just what magic there is making music, even if, at times, the result was barely fit to assault the human ear.
I've wanted to include this page almost since the site's inception but have never felt sufficiently qualified to tackle it myself. I put out some feelers to a few Old Poundswickians whose contribution to Poundswick's musical heritage was very much greater than my own (I will not embarrass them by naming names!) but none have, as yet, come up with the goods, despite a few expressions of interest in doing so.
In the early years the prime-mover of Poundswick's musical activities and the undoubted source of much of the encouragement and enthusiasm that I described above was Mr. F. P. (Percy) Welton, who joined the staff in 1956 when the school opened and who firmly held the baton for the next nine years, to the immense benefit of a whole generation of would-be Poundswick musicians.
I explained to him my wish to include a Music at Poundswick page on the site and it needed only the gentlest of arm-twisting to persuade him to get the ball rolling by contributing his own memories, for which I am very grateful. I have no doubt that my gratitude will be shared by many other Old Poundswickians whose lives have been enhanced by his uniquely memorable introduction to the art of music-making.
Music at Poundswick Grammar School, 1956-65
Poundswick was an incredible school in which to work; I felt privileged to be one of that group of twenty-five teachers appointed to welcome just 60 boys and 120 girls to the school at the start of the Autumn Term in 1956. They were the eleven-plus pioneers who would remain the "senior" form for the next seven years.
We decided, in that opening year, to divide pupils into ten forms of eighteen, each form comprising - yes, you've guessed it - twelve girls and six boys. With two lessons per week in Music, that left me with spare teaching time so I added some French and English, relying in these subjects on what I remembered from studying them through to the Sixth Form years before.
It was typical of Poundswick that almost everybody would cheerfully lend a hand at whatever was required and this included staff participation in musical activities, for which I was always grateful. Right from the start I tried to encourage and build up singing as something that everyone could do - if not always equally well. So, in the original Music Room (the rather claustrophobic Small Hall) one lesson was mainly singing and the other appreciation - listening and literacy - with recorders as the tool for learning to read notation. But Music overflows from the classroom into the life of the school in many ways, from Morning Assembly to lunch-time rehearsals and so on. The Headmaster, Mr. Gilpin, allowed time for me to play (the piano, of course, not some wretched recording) for two or three minutes before Prayers and I rather enjoyed occasionally taking over afterwards for a hymn practice (during which most of the staff would retire to the Staff Room, perhaps for a quiet smoke) before the first period began. I soon learned to stand on my left foot, work the pedal with my right and to keep an eye on the back row at all times.
I wanted to develop instrumental work as soon as possible and therefore requested, via Manchester Education Committee's Music Advisor, to have a supply of instruments. The first instalment comprised 24 violin outfits, complete with a visiting teacher, Miss Hardman. So gradually we built up a string section; violins, one or two violas, cellos and even a double bass. Woodwind, flutes, clarinets, oboe and even a bassoon appeared as well as trumpets, horns, trombone and an ancient pair of timps - I forget from where.
I feel considerable nostalgia for those nine years, remembering the concerts, operettas, even that ambitious Hansel and Gretel production, festivals and so on. I don't recall ever encountering discipline problems and I think this was due to pupils feeling that the school was theirs, to look after and to enjoy what it could offer - I hope my impression is correct.
There must be many Old Poundswickians who have vivid memories of their musical activities at Poundswick. If you'd like to send us a few paragraphs about yours, perhaps including a photo, please get in touch. Perhaps, as a consequence of your musical grounding at Poundswick, you have gone on to do other and greater things in the world of music, if so, we'd like to hear from you!