Hatfield School of Music And Drama

David Hutton

Was this school located just at Burleigh School, or was there more than one school involved?

Hatfield School of Music and Drama was a new venture inaugurated in 1960. It met in Burleigh Secondary Modern School in Wellfield Road, and had a choir and an orchestra, with Hratch Gasparyan as Leader (1st violin), and a conductor who died after a year or so. He was succeeded by Vernon Handley, who went on to become a famous conductor of well-known orchestras and a supporter of the music of English composers. We found him a very likeable, able and encouraging conductor who got us to sing and play well, and felt lucky to have had him.
Most of the members of our family took part – I sang bass and played oboe, for example – and my elder brother met his wife-to-be there. I had learnt to play the oboe at Hatfield School under Mr. Haskins, and played in the school orchestra. Since then I’ve sung in Choral Societies wherever I’ve been living, and played double bass for about 10 years in the Cobweb Orchestra, largely in County Durham: https://cobweborchestra.org.uk/
Of the other members I can only remember two at the moment, who also played in Hatfield School orchestra. Sheila Davies played violin, and Beryl Foster ‘cello; she was the Orchestra’s librarian; she became Chairman of the Grieg Society of Great Britain, and President of the International Grieg Society.
Can anyone give some more information, particularly about the Drama side?

This page was added on 26/01/2020.

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  • Like David Hutton, I played in the Hatfield School orchestra (clarinet and flute) and had clarinet lessons from Peter Haskins.

    I played clarinet regularly in the HSMD orchestra from about 1966 until 1970, then occasionally as a guest bass clarinettist as needed until 1974.

    When I joined the HSMD orchestra, we rehearsed in Hatfield School Hall for a while but sometimes in the Technical College Hall, before moving to the Burleigh School venue. I played 2nd clarinet; the 1st clarinettist was Michael Walsh. Michael’s wife Wendy played 1st flute; they lived just over the Essex border in Much Hadham, as I recall.

    In my time in the orchestra, Peter Wigfield was the conductor, taking over from Vernon (‘Tod’) Handley about the same time as I joined. Peter was very genial and easy to get on with. Sadly he left in about 1970, to be replaced by Frank Shipway, who came from the Waltham Forest Orchestra, and was beginning to make a name for himself as an international conductor.

    Frank was very dynamic and had great ideas for the orchestra, introducing big ambitious works like Richard Strauss ‘Ein Heldenleben’, Holst ‘Planets’, Stravinsky ‘Rite of Spring’, etc. All very exciting, but unfortunately Frank was, to put it politely, not the easiest conductor to get on with, and he upset a lot of people. There are ways to get the best out of your orchestal players, but being downright rude and unpleasant to them is not one of them. After a particularly nasty rehearsal which left several players feeling very uncomfortable (see, I still remember it!), I finally had enough and left, shortly before moving away from the area.

    By Steve Dumpleton (04/10/2020)