Life for me at the Caldecott Community began 3 months before my 4th birthday. I had learned to sing a tune before learning to speak so hearing music and hymns coming from the Chapel in the converted Stable Yard, where the Chapel and Nursery living quarters were established, was a real pleasure to me. I recall looking forward to Sundays! We had no music in the nursery itself, except I remember being woken by a new boy who was singing at the top of his voice while still in bed on his first morning! The staff did not encourage this but the children in his dormitory loved it and many requests were made on other occasions!

At six years old I joined the Junior Study and lived in the main house, (a Robert Adam Mansion). Then, we had singing lessons ourselves and learned many new songs, hymns and carols! We also did some eurhythmics to music, in the beautiful Robert Adam library, and both the library and the movement to music were brilliant. These were happy times. 

In the library again on a special occasion we were invited to listen to a recording of Prokofiev,s “Peter and the Wolf”. Not being familiar with the different orchestral instruments, I missed out on the use of them in the story and just enjoyed the music. I remember trying very hard to hear the duck but nothing quacked! At a later time we heard the “Carnival of the Animals” but I think I sneaked into that because it was, to my recollection for the seniors.

In our junior dormitory we sometimes sang some of the songs we had learned such as “Over the Sea to Sky”. This was after lights out and was only stopped by staff when less acceptable war time songs were included! One girl in particular seemed to have quite a repertoire. There was a lady who put us to bed at night and sat on the end of a child’s bed each night, and sang us a song of our choosing, before turning the lights out. Each day a different child had a turn and choice. We never liked her being absent even though her voice was not very melodic it was wonderful being sung to.

Christmas was beautiful at Caldecott with ‘Kissing Ring’, and especially the huge Christmas tree in the Adam drawing room where we sang carols. 

I left Caldecott for a while and on returning found that Pop Music had taken over in a big way. This did not exclude the previous activities but singing was frequently Pop and very loud! There was a ’Jive’ session in the library so that the seniors could do the modern dancing of the day. The Play Rooms nearly all had record players and a variety of music, Classical, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Cliff Richard (amongst other Pop stars) could be heard at the weekends particularly.

Classical music was played on Sundays after supper, and again it was in the library. We sat in easy chairs around a huge log fire, in the winter, and something I really liked was to see the trees outside moving in the wind but only hearing music. I still love that. These sessions were organised by the only Caldecott music teacher and requests from the children were always welcome. She created and maintained an interest and good standard of music at Caldecott.

The old weaving room in the Stable Yard had been converted into a music room where children learned music and practiced a variety of musical instruments. Older children were encouraged to play musical instruments and many reached a high standard. We heard them at different times, practising on the grand piano in the library or in the music room. The occasional concert was given to the school and invited guests, where children played music they had learned.

There was a choir for the seniors and mainly they sang in the Chapel on Sundays. Some of the girls found fun in sitting, with their legs dangling through the stair rails, at the top of the house practising harmonies and singing the pieces of music from choir practice. It echoed thru the upper house and was very good, as I thought then.

There was one boy who was really keen on Mario Lanza and used to sing his heart out in the mornings while helping in the kitchen. No one ever discouraged this but comments were made about the volume of his enthusiastic renderings of the songs.

There were Scottish and Country Dancing events, some times held on the front lawn and the boys and girls would be dressed appropriately for the type of dancing.

On at least one occasion some Morris Dancers were invited to dance on the front drive (and lawn). Most of the Community turned out to watch them. 

I do know that in the very early 1950s, Britten’s “The Little Sweep” music was sung a great deal and the music teacher of the time had the sheet music for it. This was not long after it was composed and first performed in 1949. An interesting choice, on reflection.

I have heard it said that Miss Leila (Rendel) had no interest in music but she certainly encouraged and supported its interest in the Community and was well aware that of its importance to the children.


Gill Cook