We have a fascinating piece submitted via email by Chris Dell.


A masterclass for young musicians held by Graham Wade, professor of classical guitar, at The Old Malthouse, Sawbridgeworth

Whether you are a specialist music teacher or, like me, writes Chris Dell, retired computer specialist and guitarist with a music degree, there is great satisfaction in helping keen youngsters learn to play an instrument to a good standard.  Also, to arrange for them to perform, in front of family, in school, before audiences young and old, or in a youth orchestra, and the picture is complete. Many excellent music societies and local clubs are liaising with schools and teachers, and here I report on two venues I’ve worked with, the first as concert arranger, the second as an enthusiastic supporter
While being taught classical Spanish guitar, 40 years ago, I became a faithful volunteer and assistant to a remarkable musician and teacher, Candida Tobin, who had explored and developed new ways of teaching music theory and practice to School pupils of varied ages and abilities. Based in Sawbridgeworth, near Harlow, Candida and I formed The Old Malthouse Music Society, which met in a large upstairs studio and performance room at her home. She provided a grand piano and instruments in a charming workshop environment, with its old oak beams, carpets and decorative lighting. Besides being a showcase for professional musicians to perform before the Society’s members and guests, this inspirational professional visited schools to teach and also held classes in the Old Malthouse for groups of young pupils – particularly those from schools where music teaching was not a priority. Classical guitar tuition was particularly popular, with young teenagers. She introduced them into her unique system of graded music, theory and practice, and many talented students were after several months encouraged to take the Trinity College of music examinations, so rewarding and charting their progress.
I knew music professional Graham Wade, and Candida and I invited him to give a first masterclass ‘workshop’ to school and private-tuition young students, with his expert recital and personal encouragement to practice regularly. So arose The Old Malthouse ‘season’ of music workshops and recitals, from professionals from UK and abroad – for young, old and family audiences, which started in 1975. Word got around, and our young-and-old audiences were treated to recitals by young unknown players and distinguished professionals, on guitar and a widening range of other instruments. There were also recordings there (of the music world’s well-known professionals) by BBC outside broadcast units at The Old Malthouse – attended by intrigued and curious local school music students. Music teachers from foreign countries also “dropped in” to learn more of Mrs Tobin’s methods and system.


Candida Tobin is host to visiting Japanese teachers wanting to explore her music teaching

Chris Dell recalls that, after Candida Tobin died aged 82 in 2008, Tobin Music Trust funds enabled a Tobin memorial music concert, before aspiring school students and families, to be staged at St John’s Arts and Recreation Centre (ARC) in Old Harlow, just a few miles away from The Old Malthouse. Two teenagers, Candida’s former pupils, performed on cello and piano. The Church was restored and refurbished over five years from 1983 and the ARC was opened in 1988 as a registered charity and being Old Harlow’s first Community Centre. Many young and older local guitarist musicians, and even professionals from many countries, who had performed in The Old Malthouse, have now appeared and performed there. Some of the guitar professionals are acclaimed world-class.
Among a commendable range of exhibitions and events, workshops to foster local artistic talents, and daily facilities for groups and clubs, the Centre’s programmes are particularly well supported in its offerings of live music performances – from classical to jazz groups – and music workshops.
Like recital and workshop facilities at The Old Malthouse, the ARC has fine music acoustics in its Main Hall, with its high vaulted ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and seating capacity of 130. Other rooms are available, but the Main Hall is so supportive for attendances at lunchtime or evening performances of young and old, amateur and professional – and even the large ensemble of the Harlow Chorus choir, 80 strong, 40 years in being.


Lunchtime ARC concerts are very popular with Old Harlow’s retired, some grandparents attending with young relatives

Chris Dell, for 30 years organiser at The Old Malthouse, comments “I look forward to continue to help in any way the ARC’s imaginative and efficient staff. They have staged many music events involving school youngsters, and professional musicians including three friends of mine visiting from abroad. Performers young and old are so appreciative of the chance to show their skills. These just emphasize to audiences their often years of devotion to classical and other music.”


The author of this article, in his younger days, teaches guitar enthusiasts at a school in Buntingford, Hertfordshire

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