My Career as an Amateur Musician
by Walter Beyer

I was born in Wandsworth, south-west London. My father and sister played piano, so I was persuaded to play the violin. At about 10 or 11 years old, I took lessons on the violin from a teacher at 6p an hour. At age 11 I won a LCC scholarship and went to Emanuel School. Here I was asked to play chamber music trios with two of the masters, one on cello and the other viola. But I don't think I came up to scratch as this only lasted for two lunchtime breaks!

Anyway, at this time I was playing in two amateur orchestras, one of which was the Memorial Hall Orchestra at East Hill, Wandsworth. Here we played four or five concerts for various churches and charities each year, and I progressed through to become leader, and eventually, when the conductor died I had to take over. This came to an end when the the East Hill church gave up the concert hall for a child's school which provided the church with well-needed finance.

I was called up for duty in the Second World War, and went to a training camp in Oswestry. Here, I was asked to play in a dance band - I was also playing saxophone at this time - and I got leave to go home to fetch the sax and violin. The band was organised by Cyril Harding, who used to play for Henry Hall in the BBC Dance Band. We played in the Garrison Theatre there as well as the Officers and Sergeants' Mess, and various local town halls.

After an edict from the War Office stating that all A1 men in training camps were to be posted to active regiments, I went to the Royal Artillery, and was trained as a Radar Operator (frightfully secret in those days) and saw service in Algeria and Tunis, over to Italy and up into Austria. The Americans had set up a rest camp in Rome, and when we got there, we were given a week's leave in the rest camp, and in the Vatican City we were invited to meet the Pope, who blessed us all. I finished up in Graz, was eventually demobbed and returned to my job in the electricity industry.

The Head Office was in New Bond Street. One day at lunch break, I ran into the trumpet player of the Army Band outside County Hall, and he asked me why I wasn't in the LESSA Orchestra, which I didn't know about. That's how I became a member of the LESSA Orchestra.

Here again, I progressed through the violins and you may note from the last concert programme that by 1980 I was billed as the Co-Leader. I have continued to attend the Tuesday evening meetings. I am a member of a string quartet at Norbury and I have also joined the St Bartholomew's Church Orchestra, which gives concerts throughout the year in most of the local churches to aid their finances.


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