Alnwick, Recorded Music Society

St James's URC Church
St James's URC Church

Local music enthusiast Cliff Pettit was the guest speaker at Alnwick Recorded Music Society’s latest meeting.

Cliff talked about his four years service as a young man in the army from 1943 to 1947 and how music entered his life as he travelled around wartime Europe.

Soon after he was called up, a performance of Handel’s Messiah was staged for the troops and Cliff was charged with rounding up as many soldiers as possible to form an audience.

His reward was to enjoy his first performance of the oratorio and so his number one choice of music for the evening was a recording of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Shortly after VE day, he encountered a concentration camp near Bremen, which left a lasting impression on him.

While he was not prepared to go into details of the horrors he saw there, his choice of the dark music of Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountainsummed up his feelings.

On a much happier note, he was later present at Magdeburg, overseeing repatriation of Russian prisoners of war. Cliff remembered the atmosphere with a recording of the jolly Polka from Weinberger’s Schwanda the Bagpiper.

Next memories were of a concert heard in Munster where Kodaly’s Hary Janos Suite was part of the programme, the Viennese Musical Clock sequence capturing the joys of spring.

Cliff then moved on to Berlin, where his choice of the march from Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges conjured up the image of Russian soldiers as they strutted the streets.

On a very different note, reminiscences of his visits to a night club included his choice of “Hear my Song Violetta”, which was a regular favourite of his comrades.

Cliff was later posted to Venice where he was able to hear his first opera, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, at the famous Fenice Opera House. He selected a recording of the atmospheric Humming Chorus as a souvenir. Another musical treat was an outdoor concert in a Venetian park where he heard Brahms’ First Symphony from which he chose the last movement.

Then it was back to England and to York, where he was demobilised, a landmark event in Cliff’s life which he recalled with the rousing last movement of Beethoven’s seventh symphony, concluding an interesting and entertaining evening rich with anecdotes and good humour.

At the next meeting, to be held on July 12, at 7.30pm at St James United Reformed Church in Pottergate, Mike Alexander will explore how music developed in the West in the period from 1000 to 1500.