www.Poundswick .org.uk

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.

Mr. F. P. Welton

No-one with musical interests at Poundswick in those early years could possibly fail to remember him and I know that quite a few met him again after they (and he) left Poundswick and moved to Didsbury College of Education. Recently F.P.W. came across the Poundswick website and contacted me; it has been my privilege to make his acquaintance again and to exchange musical reminiscences of Poundswick's Golden Age.

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.

During that first year they had to provide a choir and an orchestra, everything, in fact, that was needed musically including performing at the official opening of the school in June 1957; they rose to this occasion with great enthusiasm and ability.

Click here for more on the opening ceremony.

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.

Of course we soon, it seemed, were joined by a new First Year and I ascended to a brighter room on the top floor - a room with a view. Later still I acquired a colleague in music, the mighty Mike Brown who occupied a room far distant, on the ground floor, though that did not stop him rigging up a microphone and speaker connection between the two, across the roof of the school!

One of my background activities was to maintain contact with local junior schools in an endeavour to encourage musically-talented pupils to choose Poundswick as their secondary school. I recall offering to accompany some choir work at one and we also held a non-competitive festival involving nearby schools such as Newall Green and Baguley. In later years more formal (and very definitely competitive) festivals were held to which all Wythenshawe secondary schools were invited. Here's the cover of the programme for the 1964 festival, at which Poundswick was represented in almost every class.

As the years passed, "O" and "A" levels came and went until, with the approaching advent of comprehensiveness, I decided that perhaps the halcyon days were over and I moved on to become a lecturer at Didsbury College of Education and Michael Bridger arrived to take my place.

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!

For my own (very modest) part, I sing in a local Barbershop Group called Vale Harmony. Here are some of us providing after-lunch entertainment for a Rotary group in Worcester; I hope that their digestive processes were not too adversely affected by the experience.
I was attracted to the Barbershop style because it is simple, unaccompanied and the harmonies sound just lovely; much like we (sometimes) used to achieve in the Madrigal Group at Poundswick. Here's an example of what I would describe as a typical piece in the Barbershop style; I defy anybody not to be moved at least a bit by it. Having rambled on this far I suppose I might as well give Barbershopping a plug: here's a link to the website of the British Association of Barbershop Singers; we have a lot of fun!