Harold Bebbington remembered
Harold Bebbington was a previous Choir Master and Organist of St Peters Church Choir during the late forties and early fifties. June Lord and I, along with Doreen Ward, another past chorister, went to his funeral recently. As so often happens on these occasions the flood gates were opened on a store of memories.
Most of us in those days were not musicians, we just had voices and loved using them. We girls (mostly Bluecoat girls) had been recruited into the choir by a previous choirmaster, Mr. Trivett, during the war, and enjoyed being in the choir. Then Mr. Trivett retired and Mr. Bebbington took over. He brought with him an enthusiasm which very soon infected the whole choir, but especially the girls. We would have music lessons before choir practice twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, and what fun they were. He had his own methods of teaching and we soon improved in musicianship under his guidance.
Around this time most of us had just left school and were in our first jobs. Some of us would meet straight from work at Lyons Tea Shop on Long Row. After fortifying ourselves with beans and chips, and cups of coffee, we would hurry over to St Peters for choir practice. It was a happy time - we were growing up, meeting boyfriends and St. Peters Choir was the hub of it all. John Lord had met June and brought her along to join the choir, and she quickly became one of us and a lifelong friend. There were "Socials" in the Broad Marsh St Peters Rooms, and in addition to fun and games there was lots of singing. Mrs Inglis, Buff and other ladies would provide tea and sandwiches (no easy task in post -war austerity Britain). These times can be summed up in Canon Inglis own words, for whenever he saw one of us he would give us a cheery wave and call "Happy Days"!
During his time at St Peters Harold Bebbington and his fiancé Audrey were married. Audrey was a regular member of St Marys Church so the wedding took place there. St Peters Choir was invited to sing at the wedding and I remember it well. He said that if he was pleased with our singing he would walk past us after signing the register with his bride on his arm giving us the thumbs up sign. Needless to say, his thumbs were well and truly raised and his smile was broad!
Harold Bebbingtons enthusiasm for music making had given us confidence to widen our horizons. A few of us applied to join the Nottingham Harmonic Choir and were all accepted. This opened up a whole new experience of singing, the awe inspiring wonder of being part of a great sound. The terror of the "Dies Irae" from the Verdi Requiem, the tender pathos of the Chorales in the St Matthew Passion and the rising glory of Praise to the Holiest in the Height from Elgars Dream of Gerontius and much, much more. Added to this was the thrill of being close to some of the greatest soloists in the world. Later on when Kendrick Partington came to St. Peters and started the St Peters Singers, June and I and several other past choristers were delighted to be able to join. So began many more happy years of music making. Kendrick too was an inspiring choirmaster - brilliant, full of enthusiasm, and a perfectionist.
We have had a lifetime of enjoyment, not just the singing, but from that very special something that happens when a few or many individuals get together and are moulded into a glorious harmonious whole. Its magic, and I personally thank Harold Bebbington for setting us on this happy road.
When he left St Peters we completely lost touch - several attempts to trace him ending in disappointment. At his funeral we learned that he had taken up teaching at posts all over Britain, and had eventually come back to Nottingham in later life. His final years had been plagued with illness, suffering several heart attacks and strokes.
We were sorry not to have seen him before he died, but were pleased to be at his funeral to pay homage to the man to whom we have much to be thankful.
After leaving St Peter's, Harold took the post of Organist at St John's, Carrington and then at St Andrew's, following Mr Henneker. He then moved to a school in Grantham as a teacher of general studies. Following this appointment he moved to St Mary's Convent, Wantage, as Director of Music. This is an Anglican convent where all the sisters are graduates. Following this appointment he was a lecturer at the College of Further Education in Reading, and played as a voluntary organist at the Parish Church there. He also did some teaching work at Reading prison. He then moved to Kingston-on-Thames College as Senior Lecture, helping various local churches when requested, until his retirement back to Nottingham in the early 1980s.