David Tall : Music

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I began learning the violin at age 11 and the viola at age 13, playing in many amateur orchestras, string quartets etc. Apart from taking O-level music at age 15, my knowledge of music is completely self-taught, including playing the piano (badly) and learning to conduct choirs, orchestras and operas.

Oxford University 1960 - 1966
As a student at Oxford, I played in the University Orchestra as principal viola and also as principal second violin. There was a vast number of orchestral and chamber concerts to play in every term. Based in Wadham College, I acted initially as secretary and ‘orchestral fixer', organising players for the Wadham College Orchestra. In May 1964, I made my conducting debut with theWadham Orchestra, including the World Premiere of Five Orchestral Pieces by Frederick Delius, arranged for me from five piano pieces by Delius's amanuensis, Eric Fenby. In the Autumn I conducted the 24 strongWadham LMH Choir in Britten's Ceremony of Carols with Jeffrey Dyball (Harp). In the Spring we formed the 36 strong Meryfield Choral Society to perform Kodaly's Missa Brevis, growing to 48 singers for the Mozart Requiem in the summer, 60 singers for the Beethoven C Major Mass, in the Autumn then around 150 singers for Orff's Carmina Burana in the spring of 1965. At Easter 1965, I conducted Die Fledermaus with the Oxford City Operatic Society at the Playhouse Theatre. Other items in various concerts included the Elgar Cello Concerto, Faure's Pelleas et Melisande, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and the Schumann Piano Concerto.

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Sussex University 1966 - 1969
As a lecturer at Sussex University, my first musical task was as conductor of a Russian Orthodox Choir, then in 1967 we formed the A Cappella Singers, aiming for a 16 strong group, but growing to 48 for the first concert. Our first concert included the Tallis Lamentations, Vivaldi's Beatus Vir, learning the parts without any accompaniment. The following term the A Cappella Singers took part in the British Premiere of Lehrstuck  by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Then the A Cappella Players and Sussex Brass Ensemble were formed to play at A Cappella Concerts.

Warwick University 1969 -
Within two months of arriving at Warwick, following my response to an advert in the press, the Leamington Spa Opera Group appointed me Musical Director. For six years 1970-1975, we performed operas, operettas and musicals, including The Bartered Bride, La Belle Hélène, The Mikado, The Gondoliers, Die Fledermaus, Cavalleria Rusticana, the British Amateur Première of Fiddler on the Roof, and many concerts. In 1970-72 I also conducted a chamber choir called the Choro di Cantori at the university.
In 1972 the Blue Triangle Operatic Society invited me to be Musical Director for the production of Mame at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. At the same time my relationship with local amateur theatre groups began as musical director of an Old Time Music Hall at the Talisman Theatre, in which I played violin, piano accordion, ukelele and penny whistle with my band of three players. In later years I composed original incidental music for plays, culminating in the conception and musical arrangements for the highly successful By George! at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (based on the life and music of George Gershwin). In this I conducted the band and played the part of Paul Whiteman, my waist-size now becoming equal to the task. Vintage Porter (based on Cole Porter) followed at the Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa, both shows written in conjunction with Keith Higgins, an amazing local actor, director and absolutely brilliant guitarist. Other shows included Musical Director for Oh What a Lovely War at the Priory Theatre, and The Wizard of Oz at the Loft Theatre.
At the same time (1972-1979) I was Principal Conductor of the Beauchamp Sinfonietta, conducting over fifty concerts including single composer programmes devoted to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tschaikovsky, Strauss & Gershwin. We performed several premières of works by young British composers, and the world première of 1890 Suite by Delius.
As the time and effort became huge, I felt I must change my focus back to my academic career. My link with music continued, focusing on a new challenge as Founder Chairman of the Percy Grainger Society (1978–1983) in preparation for the 1982 Centenary of Grainger’s birth. This involved researching and publishing a new list of Grainger’s output, reassembling a library of his music from all over the world (master-minded by Barry Ould), and editing and producing the Grainger Journal twice a year. The Percy Grainger Society still carries on its fundamental work through the devotion of Barry Ould, whose Bardic Edition is now a major publisher of Grainger’s music.
As my academic work increased, I had less time for performance. From 1980 to 1986, I conducted a small chamber choir.the Arden Consort. In 1987, I returned as Musical Director of Spa Opera for two years, including productions of Kiss Me Kate, The Mikado, and Oklahoma!
In 1991, I was awarded the Bronze Medallion of the International Percy Grainger Society, (New York), for scholarship and service to the music of Percy Grainger.

In 1992 I contracted sarcoidosis, which affected my vision and chest, and was unable to work for over a year. Since then I have taken early retirement, staying at Warwick on a one-third appointment as Professor of Mathematical Thinking. I have found a new challenge: relaxing and maintaining my health, whilst travelling far and wide as a Mathematics Educator. Music remains a pleasure but is no longer a serious occupation.

Several publications remain available. These include original compositions and editions of the music of Percy Grainger, all available from Bardic Edition, Aylesbury:

Three Christmas Carols:
1989 A Maydyn’s Lullaby.
1993 Watt’s Cradle Song.
1993 Wher Riches ys Everlastyngly.

Arrangements of Lord Maxwell’s Goodnight, Early one Morning and My Love’s in Germanie are available on the CD Jungle Book, Hyperion CDA66863 released in 1996. It is a real privilege to be associated with this wonderful disc of Grainger’s music.

This is part of a huge Grainger revival, with a separate projected collection of all of Grainger’s works on CD organised by Chandos, in which a few of my editions are but a tiny part of a gigantic enterprise.

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