David Wells: Conductor (1979-1984)
I was fortunate to be born into a musical family. My mother loved music and my father was a church organist, so it was little wonder that, at the age of four, I persuaded my parents to let me learn the violin which I saw in a music shop window in my home town of Hereford. I became fascinated by all sorts of instruments and soon started learning the piano and viola, playing in local orchestras and helping my father by playing the hymns and other parts of the service at church. I discovered the wonderful range of sounds offered by woodwind instruments and tried many out including the bassoon which I then began to learn. However, the instrument which completely took my imagination was the organ and I started taking lessons when I was 13 when my legs became long enough to reach the pedals.
I went to the Hereford Cathedral school and then on to Cranleigh School from where in 1950 I gained an organ scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford. Here, apart from taking my degree in music, I had numerous chapel musical duties to attend to, including starting a college chapel choir and a choral society and enjoyed playing the bassoon in various university orchestras and chamber groups.
When I left Oxford, I was called up to serve my two year National Service in the army. This was an interesting experience, not least by my finding a disused saxophone in a cupboard. I taught myself how to play it and formed a dance band with fellow musical service men in the unit. This became popular and very useful in both augmenting my meagre forces pay by playing for dances in the area, but also increasing my musical education into new fields. During this time, I married Dorothy.
After my army experiences, I had to find a job so I went in for teaching. This led in 1960 to posts as music adviser to the Carlisle Education Authority followed by the post of Music adviser for Coventry Education Authority and, subsequently, County Music Adviser to the Hertfordshire Education Authority. After nearly 10 years there, I was asked in 1974 to join H.M. Inspectorate of Schools, and in 1976 I was posted to the Northern Division and based in Carlisle. Dorothy and I bought a house in Lazonby and I became the choirmaster for St Andrew’s Church. After a little time I decided to start a separate choral society based initially on the church choir. This quickly expanded with singers from farther afield and we christened the choir ‘The Penrith Singers’. When I was later posted to the south to cover London and some of the home counties, the choir continued under directorship of Colin Marston and I am delighted to see how well it has become so much part of the musical life of Penrith.
I retired in 1991 and in 2016 Dorothy and I moved to Scotland to Auchlochan Garden Village, a Methodist retirement complex, to be nearer our two children, Jonathan and Alison, and their families, who live and work in Scotland. Dorothy, sadly, had become very ill and died soon after arriving in Auchlochan. I was very fortunate to meet Georgie, also a resident at Auchlochan, and we are now very happily married.
During all these years, making music, both professionally and as a hobby, has been a major part of my life wherever my work may have taken me. It has offered me a most happy and enlightening life for which I am most grateful and this has continued to the present day. Church organ playing and choir training have been a consistent enjoyment throughout these years, and professionally I have been much involved in forming and conducting orchestras, choirs, choral societies and other such groups in many parts of the country and abroad. I was also invited to join a British Music Delegation to Japan during my ‘Inspectorate’ days to discuss various approaches to music education and teacher training in our respective countries. Even at Auchlochan in my mid-eighties I was soon asked to become the organist for our Sunday services and to start a choir with the resident community. In addition the choir just recently has been asked to link up with a nearby church choir to do joint ventures. Musical life is flourishing and enhances the lives of many of us living here.