Putney Music


I visited Putney Music to discuss my work, illustrated by recordings, with Tom Hutchinson. It was a pleasant, almost therapeutic experience to listen to the earliest classical music I can remember (eg Bach’s Magnificat in D, from my dad’s record collection) in the company of Tom, an exemplary all-round musician, and a very friendly group of listeners who brought up musical topics ranging from Pierre Boulez to the viola d’amore.

Putney Music is in effect a ‘gramophone society’, albeit a rather grand one, founded in 1950. Whenever we discussed a historical figure, Colin Davis for instance, someone would say ‘he addressed the Society in 1956…’ You might think that institutions like this belong in the Ark in the present age of bluetoothed downloads, and it conjured up the memory of an aunty of mine who was a denizen of the Nairn Gramophone Society in Kirkcaldy, founded by a big factory in the town for their employees in wartime. (I was delighted to see that they too are still going strong under the name of Kirkcaldy RMS). It’s a convivial way to focus on music without the pressures of the live musical environment where so many things can go wrong. And, compared with all those bluetoothed downloads on your phone, you do really listen properly to ‘gramophone records’.

I was working in Glasgow this week, and had to ‘commute’ to Putney, with fogged-out airports and a DLR strike making this a bit more complicated than expected. My photo shows part of my amended journey across the Thames on the Woolwich Ferry. A literary friend pointed out: ‘in Charles Dickens’ time you could have hired a riverman to row you directly from Silvertown to Putney’.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020