Maybole Memories - The Music Teacher
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By George Davidson

In the early fifties when some new fangled ideas were beginning to creep into education, music hit the curriculum like a great crescendo from a Beethoven symphony.  It was only a matter of time before the class of Ďcí were exposed to this bit of culture.  Some years before an eccentric lady had exposed me to the art form in the primary school.  Her name was Miss Patterson.  She had a definite style about her presentation.   She specialised in round tones, the kind that contort your face and hurt your gums in the execution. Her big finish consisted of a deft move onto her desk, which was extremely dangerous, because of the long tweed skirt she wore and her arthritic joints.

Once on board the rickety old desk, her balance was a thing of beauty.  She hitched her blouse up to expose her diaphragm.  This, so far as she was concerned, was the centre of all good sound.  She made the most awful gasping sound in conjunction with pressing her tummy and releasing it at the appropriate time.  It seems, to this class of eight or nine year olds, some kind of dangerous behaviour.  It did produce a lot of fun in the playground, the boys in particular pulled up their shirts and made funny grunting sounds, to practice their music, as she had suggested.  It took on hilarious proportions when a winger in full flight was faced with a half-naked goalkeeper, grunting and clasping his tummy. This was my introduction to music.

That was the fun side of music for me.  In the Academy, it was a `different situation.   The time arrived for serious music instruction. The lady who taught music at the Academy was Miss Hill.  She was sometimes a pleasant woman at other times overbearing in her demands.  It amazed me that adults who are gifted donít really understand those who are not.  She was a talented musician, and assumed it was easy for others to read music or sing or play, this of course, as most of us know, it not true.  Most people can hardly hum a line in tune.

One day during the run up to Christmas, she decided to introduce us to carol singing, a laudable enough venture during the season.  All started reasonably well, because it was community based. She suddenly stopped.  Now her plan was to involve some solo work. She started at the back of the class with the first verse of ĎOnce in Royal Davidís City.í  Anyone should be able to sing that- right! Wrong!  Not in public without due warning.  I was sitting about four rows from the first singer, who was a big lad and one who was into the hit parade, so it went well with him.  The next two struggled manfully through the ordeal.  It was then my turn; I dried, as they say in show business.  No matter what I did, no sound would come from my dried up larynx.  I could literally feel the sympathy of my peers, hoping, like me for an end to the ordeal.  It came as a bombshell.  ĎAt least Davidson, the rest of them triedí, her smug assessment of the situation, contented her without regard to feelings or embarrassment she might have inflicted.  

That incident devastated me and put me off singing for many years.  I still have trouble singing in public and very little satisfaction singing in private. I don't even sing in the bath which I understand is supposed to be a haven for those who try to court some kind of familiarity with music. I love music although I am astonished that I do because of that dreadful incident.  Many of my classmates were so disturbed at how I was treated for days afterwards they openly sympathised with me. One big lad in particular, Jim Kidd, who could carry a tune, told me more than once to forget it.  Jim was a pleasant big boy and we stayed friends over the years.  He liked the latest pop scene and was a bit of a Johnny Ray and Frankie Lane fan.

I was a closet opera fan and became familiar with many of the greats who had tonsils worthy of note.  In later years I saw many of the greatest singers in the world at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  I even went for a singing lesson in New York but as soon as the voice coach realised I had studied with Miss Hill, he gave up.  

Later I persevered trying to learn to play an instrument and not having any sense I picked of all things a five string banjo.  I did manage to pick a tune recognised occasionally by passing fugitives from the old school of carol singing.  I still do not play very well but my fingers are so nimble I can eat a bag of red hot chips with no serious ill effect.

The experience had a positive outcome.  I learned to lead singing in my church and at one time led over one thousand worshipers in making a 'joyful noise unto the Lord'  After the event one man asked me where I studied music.  I did not have the heart to disillusion him with reference to the Academy.  I have a daughter, who as a child had the same problem as me; she could not carry a tune.  When people tried to ridicule her I made sure they helped her rather than hinder her.  Now she has a son who is a great singer. They say talent can sometimes skip a generation; it took a big skip, hop and jump passed me.  But for every one who sings there has to be thousands who listen.

 

Story by George Davidson 
See also George's story about The Inspector
and another story about his leather boots entitled Tacketty Boots

Shown at left are George and Meryl Davidson.