excerpt from 'The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West' pp. 33-34 (344 words)

excerpt from 'The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West' pp. 33-34 (344 words)

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The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West

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[Harry West details his love of organ music and learning to play, largely self-taught, in pages 28; 32 – 35 of his memoir, where Colston Hall is mentioned as a setting for listening to organ music at a Methodist service. He longed to play the organ from the age of six but his parents could not afford lessons. Listening experiences relating West’s ‘musical knowledge’ are included in the Listening Experience Database as separate items]. 


I must now once again return to an earlier date to pick up the line which led to my musical knowledge, such as it is. Somewhere around 1890 when I was 10 years of age, the [Old Market Street Methodist Men’s Bible Class], of which my father was a member, built the Mission Hall in Barrow Road, Newtown, Bristol. They used there a very small harmonium without stops. (They later obtained a very good American organ). My father who was in the choir, purchased this small instrument for twenty-five shillings, and tried to learn to play it. Unfortunately he failed after a pretty persistent effort [due to poor eye sight]. 


One evening he realised that his efforts would be unavailing. He got off the stool, turned to me, a mere boy, and said “Harry boy, it is no good, I shall never ‘bust’ [organist] George Riseley’s contract at Colston Hall. I will tell you all about the notes, their values etc., you see what you can do”. I was delighted. We had no books of musical instruction, I could only do what my father had tried to do, that was to play tunes, or try to, from the “Bristol Tune Book”, “Wesley’s Tune Book” and Sankey’s “Sacred Songs and Solos”. I thought that if I could master that lot, I should be a competent musician. I did eventually master all of them, but in the course of it, failing professional instruction, I acquired some awkward habits of technique, which hampered me in more pretentious compositions. If I had waited until I could get professional instruction, however, I should never have learnt. 

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excerpt from 'The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West' pp. 33-34 (344 words)


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