Me and City Lit - Ray Plassard
Hearing that the City Lit celebrates its centenary in 2019 put me in mind that I have been attending classes there on and off for over 50 years, half of its existence! Mainly in the music department.
As a child, the schools I attended did not do much music and like most people then I left school at 16 (only 5% of people attended university in those days), took a job as a trainee quantity surveyor, studied at evening classes and at the age of 21 I had a professional qualification and 5 years work experience, unlike the situation today. I then did 2 years National Service in the Royal Artillery, returned after it to work and more study. During all this time my interest in music grew, attending many concerts and recitals, until one day in my late 20’s I thought it would be good to be able to play music rather than to just listen. Some of my friends being musicians I could then play with them. I decided I would try the flute (I thought it would be easy!). I went out and bought one and enrolled in a woodwind tuition group at the local Hendon Music Centre run by the local council. I was fortunate in having an excellent teacher to start with, Peter Hull, a freelance professional musician, but later he left because of playing commitments and I did not find his successor satisfactory.
I looked around and discovered the City Lit. At the time (1968) there were three flute classes, beginners, intermediate and advanced. After interviews with Bob Plowright and Kenneth Van Barthold I enrolled in the intermediate class. This was run by Mary Ryan, a well-known professional player of the day. After a while I graduated up to the advanced class run by Mary’s husband, Ron Gillham. He had retired from full time playing but still taught and played when required in one of his wife’s groups, ‘The Tilford Bach Festival Orchestra’. At one time Ron had been second flute in the Philharmonia Orchestra and piccolo in the L.S.O and can be seen playing in the 1940’s educational film ‘Instruments of the Orchestra’ for which Benjamin Britten had composed the ‘Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra’ otherwise ‘Variations and fugue on a theme by Purcell’.