80 Years Young, an Alto and a Pillar of the Grad Choir.
Where were you born?
I was born in Sydney at the War Memorial Hospital in Waverley although my home was in Woonona which is six miles this side of Wollongong
What is your earliest memory of music?
My earliest memory of music is piano lessons aged 5 years and violin at 8 years.
Did you come from a musical family?
My mother’s side of the family was musical. I had an Aunt with a true contralto voice and 4 uncles who were bandmasters and who all lived in country towns.
Did you have music at school?
There was no music at my primary school. I had enough to do with practise for two instruments plus piano coaching at the Con. This happened about once every three months with Frank Hutchens. I was a boarder at PLC Pymble from age 11. Here I had lots of music – school choirs and the orchestra, where I was the leader. I did a lot of accompanying as I grew older, plus lots of sport. I ran a good system…I played hymns in assembly for the girls who were rostered (and who shook in their shoes even at the thought of it), but played for them as long as they did my mending. To his day I can’t sew.
Did you attend University?
When I matriculated, there was no chair of music at Sydney Uni. One could do music as a subject in Arts (which was my contemporary, Joan Whittakers’ choice), however 1948 was the first year of the Commonwealth Scholarships and since I had won one plus an AMEB Scholarship to the Con, I chose the latter having thumbed my nose at my father who had decided that I was destined for Medicine.
What career path did you follow?
I have a Teachers Diploma. In fact in my last year of studies I taught at PLC where I had violin and piano students and was in charge of the school orchestra.
Marriage and children?
I married and had 2 children Andrew and Fiona. Andrew sang with Grads for a while.
What is your favourite piece of choral music?
There is so much choral music which I love but the piece which always tears my heart strings is Ave Verum.
Do you enjoy reading? If so, which books?
I read books all the time – often when I should be doing something else. I read History, Biographies, Family sagas and Mysteries.
Your travels – – ?
I was married to a veterinary surgeon and we went to many World conferences and made lots of friends whom I like to visit when I can and enjoy seeing them when they visit Australia.
Do you enjoy shopping for clothes?
Shoes could be a winner but I love shopping for anything and enjoy wonderful food markets.
You have been to many rehearsal spaces since joining Grads. Which one has the fondest memories for you?
I loved the Garrison, it was so chaotic but we grew out of it. Anywhere we all join together to sing is wonderful. However, my all time unfavourite is the Seymour Centre. It is a dungeon all grey and drab with low ceilings and no air.
You have made many valuable connections with the University. Perhaps you would like to tell us about these?
My connections with the Uni have been interesting, mostly resulting from the days when we were pushing to have the choir recognised within the Uni. We were in touch with financial workers angling for tax benefits for our donors. This was how I met and found a friend for the choir in Judith Kinnear. Dame Leonie and Professor Gavin Brown were also great supporters.
Since retirement you have been helpful in the University Library?
I do a lot of work for the Chancellors Committee for the annual book fair. I work a full day every Tuesday, pricing and categorising books which come from all sources, downsizes, deceased estates, library discards and even an entire bookshop in Glebe which closed down. We have just made $60,000 at our last fair which helps with scholarships.
NB For many years Margaret (and Joan Whittaker who did the language tapes) has been responsible for making rehearsal tapes for the choir. Margaret joined the Committee in 1995 and was President of the Choir in 1999 and 2000.
Margaret was interviewed by Dawn Plasto.