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CHRISTINE CONSTABLE

Membership Secretary – Worthing Symphony Society

Chris spent the first eleven years of her life in Nottingham. She did not come from a musical family, but her father played the cornet in the army. Her primary school in Nottingham was quite extraordinary in that the headmaster used to devote the best part of the daily morning assembly to music, on 78s, and this awakened her love of music. 

 

Chris remembers him playing Grieg’s The Hall of the Mountain King, Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals, and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The next day there would be follow-up questions to make sure that the children had been listening!  Chris remembers: "One day I was the only one in the hall to remember the composer of Carnival of the Animals, but I couldn’t pronounce Saint-Saëns and he ridiculed me, which I thought was very unfair".

 

She moved to Crawley and to Ifield Grammar School in 1958. Although in a New Town and only founded in 1955, the school had a music tradition thanks to an excellent Head of Music. His wife taught the oboe and Jean Pougnet taught the violin, and many other instruments were taught too. 

 

There were several school choirs; the ‘elite’ one – of which Chris a member – was the Madrigal Choir and she remembers coming to Worthing "in the days when Worthing had a Music Festival, where we won, beating the local Cecilia Singers". There was also a School Orchestra where Chris did not excel in the back row of the second violins!

 

In 1965 the School celebrated its 10th anniversary with a special concert. There must have been a connection somewhere as Gordon Jacob composed a Te Deum and came to conduct it. They also performed Parry’s Blest Pair of Sirens and Britten’s St Nicholas, with Wilfred Brown, tenor. Chris still has the programme with all the autographs. 

 

The school performed an opera or musical every two years, alternating with a play and Chris remembers Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s Saul, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, and Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley.  As Chris recalls"We went to the Southampton TV studios to take part in a choirs’ competition, and whilst in Crawley I sang alto in the St Peter’s Church choir."

 

All this came to an abrupt end in 1965/6 when, during her last year at the School, the Labour Government and West Sussex County Council decided to abolish the Grammar School. As Head Girl, Chris found herself involved in "some nasty political stuff. The Headmaster, who became a lifelong friend, was forced out, taking the Head of Music with him."

 

Music then took a back seat as Chris pursued a degree in London and a career in Pharmacy. She moved to Worthing in 1970 when her husband joined the Police Force. Children followed and ten years later she joined Música Antiqua, a local group of singers, who, with viol, recorder and shawm players, performed early music and made several recordings. Highlights were two visits to Dubrovnik where they performed in the Rector’s Palace, prior to the war in that region.

 

What she describes as a "personal musical desert" followed the break-up of Música Antiqua until Chris discovered Worthing Symphony Orchestra in 2001.

 

Having realised what a musical gem WSO is in the life of Worthing and West Sussex, she gradually became involved, and when former Worthing Symphony Society secretary Wendy Dowse moved away Chris took over the role of Membership Secretary.