Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Such different things

Two such different items for this week’s blog. One refers to an interview I did for Early Years TV. The other is about an important friend who died last Saturday and some of the reasons why the loss of him is so hard.

The interview:

The interview was with Kathy Brodie who runs Early Years TV. It happened earlier this year after my book, Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years, was published. I’ve always found it incredibly hard to look at myself on screen on any of the occasions when such a possibility has come up. But if you’d like to see the interview, what you can do is search here and from the interview options that come up, select the one with me.

The singer and friend:

Kenneth Bowen had a wonderful high tenor voice and also a great sense of humour. In his world-renowned career as a singer, he collected infinite numbers of stories of other singers, conductors and special occasions which it was always a treat to hear. But there were so many other things about him that make losing him feel so sad.

One of those is the personal connection which explains how Paul and I came to know him. Kenneth had strong connections with Fishguard, the small Pembrokeshire town where I was born. He was born in Llanelli but spent many summers in Fishguard with aunts and grandparents and his mother is buried there. So he’d go back there to visit from time to time. On one such occasion he went to see my redoubtable Aunty Mali not only because he knew her but because she was wanting to sell a piano which, in fact, Kenneth then bought for his son, now the organist of Hereford Cathedral.

Next thing we knew, Kenneth Bowen was ringing us up at Aunty Mali’s urging. He was looking for more singers to join a performance of Elijah which he was due to conduct at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. Aunty Mali had suggested us as possible candidates. We took up his invitation, enjoyed the occasion very much and subsequently joined the London Welsh Chorale, the choir of which Kenneth had become the conductor following his retirement from his singing career.

Rehearsals at the London Welsh Chorale were peppered with Kenneth’s stories. Performances under his baton were made very special by the feeling for the music that Kenneth exuded. Trips abroad were coloured by his extraordinarily recognisable laugh. On one never-to-be-forgotten trip to Prague, Kenneth was among a group of us dining in the second-floor room of a restaurant in one of the narrow streets when we urged him to go to the window and sing something to respond to the group of musicians who were playing somewhere below.

After much pleading on our part, he did it. His glorious high tenor voice cut through all the ambient sounds with a glorious Puccini aria, the whole street clapped and another group from our choir that happened to be walking nearby recognised his voice and said. ‘That’s Kenneth!’

Yes, he became infirm in his old age. (He was 85 when he died.) But on every occasion when we went to visit him in the care home where he was then living, he’d recognise us the moment he saw us coming through the door. ‘Paul and Mary,’ his voice would ring out, memorable to the end.

We’re so glad we’ll be able to attend his funeral in Fishguard next Friday. We loved him. We will miss him.

PS: The two photos this week are, of course, of Kenneth, one when he was at the height of his career, the other when he was conductor of the London Welsh Chorale. Sorry the second one is a bit blurry. I’m in the third row back, second from the right.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Such different things”

  1. Meg Philp Says:

    Dear Mary
    What a lovely memory of your friend Kenneth Bowen. To have a good singer spontaneously burst into song is such a delight. I could see you all at table and him at the window. Funerals can be hard. Being part of a congregation or choir can be so uplifting … to me, the feeling together is wider than the sum of all the parts.
    I did enjoy seeing you talk on the video.(Your voice and sounds are so Welsh – reading your book, I didn’t get all those inflections, rhythms or facial expressions!) Marvellous, helpful interview – on track with enthusiastic presenters. Your points about community, being inclusive, interactive and responsive made me want to get going with younger audiences.
    Any chance you can get permission to have that interview in a permanent place on your blog? Thank you for posting it here. Best Regards from Meg

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