26 May

Plaque Unveiled in Honour of Haydn wood

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Tony Clayden reports on a long overdue tribute to one of the last century’s greatest Light Music Composers


The Lissenden Gardens Estate is situated at the foot of Highgate West Hill, North London and adjoins Parliament Hill Fields, which is an extension of Hampstead Heath. In May, the Lissenden Gardens Community Association held a celebration of "100 Years of Heritage".

The development comprises 25 blocks of mansion flats in the famous "Arts & Crafts" style and, over the years, a number of notable residents (including the family of John Betjeman) have made their homes there. The Association has in the past erected several commemorative plaques. Saturday May 12th saw three more inaugurated, including one for a certain composer by the name of Haydn Wood, who lived there with his wife from around 1908-1918. During this period he wrote his greatest hit – Roses of Picardy to words by Frederick Wetherley.

Earlier in the year, the organisers approached David Ades to take part in the unveiling ceremony; due to distance and family commitments he regretfully had to decline and asked me if I would stand-in, which I was delighted to do, on behalf of both the Robert Farnon Society and the Light Music Society. It was particularly appropriate because I grew up about a mile away in Highgate and attended school just around the corner from the Estate.

It was fortunate that Carys Blackburn, one of Haydn Wood’s great-nieces, was able to be present and after a few words from myself, she pulled the strings to unveil the plaque.

I was able to be of further assistance, firstly in the provision of a microphone system (of course!) and also took part in the Centenary Social and Cultural Event, which was held after luncheon for invited guests in a nearby school hall.

Tributes were paid to the three dedicatees and once again it fell to me to give a talk for about 15 minutes on Haydn Wood. I must acknowledge the help I received in this regard from Marjorie Cullerne, another of Haydn Wood’s great-nieces, who spent a long time during several phone calls from her home in Canada filling me in all sorts of details about the composer and his life.

A highlight of the afternoon was the performance of a couple of Haydn Wood’s best-loved songs by the Lissenden Centenary Singers – a rendition of Brown Bird Singing for solo soprano and piano, followed by Roses of Picardy sung by the ad hoc choir (including myself!) and the audience, which were led by RFS member Robert Habermann, who gallantly stepped in at the last minute due to the indisposition of the original lead singer.

To bring the afternoon to a fitting conclusion, there followed tea and cakes baked from old style recipes. Other RFS members attending included Ann Adams and Andre Leon, also Adam Bakker, the Leader of the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra.

This article appeared in ‘Journal Into Melody’ September 2007.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.