Monday, 2 December 2013

A lovely voice restored

I attended the funeral and burial today of former soprano, Barbara Heathcote. She was born in the same year as Maria Callas.  No two women or voices could have been more different. 

Barbara Heathcote, LRAM
Barbara was a close family friend, a pretty, humble, sweet and generous lady, even at ninety. Few would never have known that, in her youth, Barbara had a beautiful soprano voice, a familiar classical solo singer on the 1940s BBC radiowaves, trained by my grandmother.  She later worked for the BBC on projects such as The Proms. As a reflection of her perfect taste in music, “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka  by Anton Dvorak was played at the funeral. 

I was charmed by a poem, read at her graveside, which she wrote aged fourteen while at school. It seems pretty rare for a teenager. 
Even at fourteen, one can love beauty, long for beauty and imagination expressed through music and words. 

Little island with your wooded hill,
Cobbled streets and painted gay windmills,
Rushing stream and silent, shaded pools
Trees that are rustled by a breeze that cools

Little island, with your glorious flowers
On the meadows low and hill that towers
And wild flowers clustered waving on the lea
Their hues mixed all in glorious harmony.

Little island set in a cobalt sea,
Haven of rest, I long to be with thee.
I would rove the whole world oer to find
An island, thus created in my mind.

All this was sufficient, but the best was to come...
At teatime, we found that her family had gifted ours with a set of 78 rpm records. They were none other than some recordings of her voice in its heyday with my aunt accompanying her. People may leave bricks and mortar or legacies of money. However, Barbara has left her highest, her art. 

This was a particular surprise for me, as I had asked her twice, in recent years, if any such recordings existed, to see if we could rescue them. She had answered in quite negative tones, probably knowing that we would one day find out that she had kept her greatest gift until last....

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