By Alison Mallett (née Melville), Old Bedalian (1939-46)
My first memory of the Lupton Hall goes back to the thirties and my single-figure age, just at Dunhurst. I had heard that a play was to be performed there and decided to see it. I was told that I couldn’t as it was “unsuitable for young children”. A challenge there! I slipped in with the audience and slid under one of the pews near the front. Somebody saw me and hauled me out ignominiously. Some years later, once I had moved up to Bedales, I suffered many bum-numbing Jaws, admirable though the principle. How many activities come to mind: speech competitions, Merry Evenings, Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare when not outdoors. Details like Paul Williamson (1940-46) clasping his hands over his chest, declaring, “I never apologise!” Bob Collet’s (1919-22, staff 1929-46) amazing hands playing Liszt; or the melting tones of Gervase de Peyer (1939-43) and Mozart.
The green rooms below were often used as practice rooms where in anonymous privacy one could loudly wail out one’s sol with Kol Nidrei and the like.
My most striking adventure was musical. Two flautist friends, Geoffrey Spencer (1939-48) and Jan Fabricius (1942-46), got together a small band of volunteers to play a Brandenburg Concerto. Our first rehearsal was nearly terminal. With no conductor, we were all at sixes and sevens. So one after another, a player stood up and waved hands and arms around but, astonishingly, completely out of time. Finally Jan said: “Ali, you’ll have to do it”. Unconfident, I pulled a twig from Miss Hobbs’ (staff 1920-47) beautiful flower arrangement, and waved it around. Amazingly it seemed to work. Rehearsals became fun. Our music master, Harry Platts (staff 1937-46), got to hear of our venture and lent me his baton and lots of advice. We were to perform with the whole school. “Start off with a bold upswing of the baton,” Harry advised.
The two soloists stood close below me. I swung the baton up with a bold upswing. The tip caught Geoff’s music and sent it flying over the orchestra to land on the resting big drum below the stage. Kerplonk! The next few bars were drowned in laughter.
We used to get many lovely musical performances, from staff, pupils and visiting professionals. The Griller Quartet were much loved. All four were drafted into the RAF and turned up one visit in their uniform blue. Late Beethoven, out of this world. Except that the cellist’s buttons rattled hideously against his audience. Between two movements he called out to the audience, “Can anyone lend me a pair of scissors?” Someone produced the scissors. The cellist then cut off all his buttons.
Now I trust future Bedalians will cherish lovely memories of the restored Lupton Hall.