Streatham and Clapham High School


I was invited to this very musical school by its Director of Music, Polly May, whom I know as the singer who first recorded my cycle Songs from the Exotic on Delphian Records about twenty years ago. It didn't surprise me at all that the school is bursting with music, and singing has an especially high priority. On the day I visited, a performance of the Mozart Requiem was just around the corner. What's more, the Head, Dr Millan Sachania, is a musicologist - the editor of definitive critical editions of Stravinsky and Poulenc. During my visit I gave a talk to a numerous group of GCSE-Music and above students, who afterwards asked some very well-considered questions. It felt like a university visit.


As an all-girls school, SCHS has a serious focus on women's attainments. I was anyway thinking about this when recently one of my former students, in her mid-20s, told me that during her (perfectly good) schooldays she'd however never heard about any woman composer at all. In turn I tried to think back to whether I had ever played any music by a woman during my formative teens. One name came back to me - Madeleine Dring, whose Italian Dance, a nice jazzy piece on the ABRSM oboe syllabus, I used to enjoy performing. Whereupon - to my (by now) not so great surprise, I discovered that SCHS have named their dining room after this composer: the Dring Hall. There is a special link, as she grew up on a neighbouring Streatham Street.


Pictured is a detail from this hall. Who are all the people? I really ought to know. Is the 3rd woman from the left Elizabeth Lutyens ? (UPDATE: it's Rosalind Franklin. Thank you, readers!) It certainly makes a refreshing change from all the Oxbridge Dining Halls and Palaces of my acquaintance where historical women are sparsely recorded, if at all.

autumn.jpg

JUDITH WEIR

Composer