Première of Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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Première of Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica

Dad was told just before Christmas that our new house in Wakefield would be ready to be occupied at the end of January - one of the first six to be completed. The small estate was still being built for the Prison Commissioners on a patch of land just off Bradford Road about a mile north of the centre of Wakefield. In the confident expectation that I would be able to start in the New Year at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, I took my violin out of its case and started practising again. I was elated.

There was a rush to get things done. Dad put our house in Salford up for sale and one of the first people who came to view our house with a view to buying it was Mrs Lappin, the wife of the Salford Warden who had given me a French book for delivering messages from her husband (this page). I was out at work when Mrs Lappin came for her viewing but, according to Mum, she was on her own and asked after me. Mum, of course, had never heard of Mrs Lappin because I had never told anyone what I did for the Salford Wardens.

The next evening I went to the Free Trade Hall and afterwards wrote in my diary:

NB. Sometime after writing those two diary pages I learned that the correct spelling for VW's new symphony is 'Sinfonia Antartica' because the title is in Italian not English.

In December 1954, by then a wireless fitter in the Royal Air Force serving in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), I acquired a rather primitive record player and my very first 33rpm long-playing record purchase was Sinfonia Antartica conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. There was a very irritating side break 6½ minutes into the 3rd movement which completely spoilt the build-up to the splendid fortissimo solo organ entry. Even now, 60-plus years on, I know exactly where that side break occurred and when listening to the symphony on the radio or to modern digital recordings, I find my ears are still mentally expecting it.

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