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Monoux Days

In 1928, ten-year-old Stanley sat for a junior County Scholarship for the Sir George Monoux Grammar School whose magnificent new building had been opened by the Lord Mayor of London in the previous year. It was a considerable achievement when he was accepted at the latter and followed Percy Timberlake who had gained a scholarship there a year earlier.
Stanley's arrival at the Monoux school in 1929 was the beginning of the second phase in his development. He joined the orchestra immediately, playing with them on Prize Day. Very much a member of what is termed the 'old school', the music master, Mr L C Belchambers, encouraged him. Having studied with Markham Lee at Trinity College, the master was fanatical about Mozart and Stanley received his introduction to the composer's work through him. The boys would joke that 'Old Man Belchambers had built his stool up to a height and it was all Mozart that he sat upon.'

Romantically, John recalled:
I think that almost my first vivid sense of pure Mozartian magic came when as a schoolboy I suddenly heard, during a French lesson, the clarinet theme of the trio of the 39th Symphony, wafted through open windows from a hall of the school, where a small visiting orchestra was playing to senior boys. The serene tune with its undulating accompaniment was, in a certain odd way, all the more wonderful for being heard on a summer day and at a distance, so that to my sorrow I have never recaptured the exact vibrations of that moment:_ but I feel that the sort of enchantment it produced is not inherently different from our maturer reactions to the marvels of Idomeneo. The difference is of degree and not of kind.
Curiously, the next steps in my Mozartian education were not through the symphonies and operas but by way of the piano works and string quartets - an approach which made infinitely clear a cardinal point, that an appearance of technical simplicity on paper cloaked difficulties which only a relentless aiming at perfection would solve. Thus I stumbled my way quite early towards the important principle that anything by Mozart is difficult to rehearse - a judgement I have never later seen reason to doubt, either in opera house or concert hall!
The following March there was a panic when Stanley cut the first finger of his right hand and was rushed to the Connaught Hospital by a master in his car. It was two months before he was able to practise after a confrontation with his father.


As an alternative to the hated violin, Stanley compromised, adopting the viola, his father's second instrument. In order to keep his son working with a string instrument, Albert would invite Timberlake and Bert Kenney (cello) to join their ensemble at home when Stanley would always play the viola.
At his first class with the vicar for confirmation (January 1931), he took the prize at the Scripture Union, his father proudly noting that Stanley had made his first public speech. Continuing his studies with Dorothy Parks, Stanley was playing the piano at socials and concert parties which she organised at St Stephen's Church and at the Misses Geary's churches, pieces such as the 1st Movement to Schubert's Sonata in D and the Shepherd's Dance by German. A week after his disagreement with his father about playing the violin, he won the piano solo contest at the Leyton Eisteddford, taking the bronze medal for his playing in the other sections, adjudicated by Alec Rowley and in the following year in the same competition with the same adjudicator - Arthur Rowley.

20th January 1932
Stanley won first prizes for the following:
Playing piano
Accompanying at sight
Reading at Sight
Piano Solos.
Finally in February 1935 he won the gold medal for a piano solo and a prize for accompanying at sight. Shortly afterwards, he came third in a piano playing contest at St Brides Institute. Intellectually, as well as musically, that summer he was first in his form at school.
Mr Belchambers ran the school orchestra but Stanley and Percy Timberlake, together with six others, formed their own private orchestra adopting the grandiose title, 'Borough Juvenile Orchestra' because Walthamstow had just received its charter as a municipal borough. They went in for music festival competitions and won a cup at the Leyton Eisteddfod in 1932. This brought them to the notice of Reginald Adler, who was to be the most important influence musically on Stanley during his first twenty years. A fine musician and a good conductor, he was a marvellous teacher of string instruments.
Reg Adler took Stanley and Timberlake into the String Orchestra at the Modern College of Music on the Orford Road, Walthamstow. He encouraged the boys to go to his house on Sunday mornings which necessitated Stanley's resignation from the choir at St Stephen's. At the Adlers' home, with Bert Kenney and Ronald Jennings, they would play the quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Brahms. Working with Reg Adler, Stanley explored a remarkable range of repertoire. In later years when he conducted small orchestras, nearly all the pieces played had been studied under Adler. As a youth he would mock Hiawatha but appreciating its popularity with audiences, would programme it later.
The other important influence on Stanley at this stage was Raie Hinde, to whose house at 126 Grove Road, off Cromwell Road, he would go for quartets. Raie Hinde BA was a very competent pianist and her husband a baritone. Vera Kantrovitch, the violinist, who had been a student with her, remembered going to the house in Grove Road to play music in the evenings. She found a fourteen year old boy struggling to play the viola. "my friend friend whispered to me "Don't worry about that, wait till you hear him play the piano." Then we changed instruments and played a trio. He played the piano and it was a dream. We kept in touch through our friend who would tell me about his progress.' Stanley continued to visit Raie Hinde for sonata practice for several years after he left school, meeting Timberlake there after the latter went up to Oxford.
As neither Timberlake nor the Pritchards possessed a radio, Amy took the friends to Eddie's house in Chingford to hear the broadcast of a concert conducted by Sir Landon Ronald. It was the first occasion that Bliss' A Colour Symphony was performed and it was an event. On this occasion Timberlake realised that this work, which was entirely new and untempered so far as he was concerned, meant a great deal to Stanley, that he was very much into listening to that kind of music and that, by vocation, he would never be other than a musician.
During the school holidays the two boys would go early in the morning to reserve the wooden seats outside the Queen's Hall to queue for the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, not knowing until the day itself if they would have the money for the two shillings entry as well as the tuppence bus fare. Just as Timberlake had noticed the effect of Bliss' A Colour Symphony on Stanley there was no questioning his breathless excitement the first time he heard Sir Adrian Boult conduct. Amongst pianists he showed the highest regard for Solomon and Louis Kentner but it was Sir Adrian Boult whom he idolised.
During one of their sessions at Reg Adler's when the boys were talking about music and flicking through the pages of a score, Adler told Stanley to look at the score more closely. Stanley said that he had grasped it already. Reg corrected him, 'You mean you glanced at it.' 'No,' replied Stanley, 'I grasped it.' He had. It prompted Reg to comment, 'You should try conducting.' Whilst one of their group, Godfrey Bramhall, did become a professional conductor, the other boys did not believe this was possible for Stanley. His school friends had often sniggered at his physical appearance; his body was huge but his arms were small and he looked somewhat grotesque. Like his father, he had a heavy attitude - a languor - and was always pompous in his speech but to his peers he appeared to be comically so. As with any sensitive child, he was different from most boys, an oddity. Life at school was not easy but he never appeared shy or abashed, seeming to have a fund of self-assurance.
During Timberlake's vacation from Oxford, Stanley played trios at home with him, Godfrey Bramhall or Kenneth Paton, a violinist who later took up the bass. The old man took them with him to St Martin in the Fields for the Bach Mass in B minor, conducted by Dr Darke. Stanley and Paton became close friends, going on holiday together, not only to Littlestone-on-Sea in Kent but also to Jullouville Le Pins near St Malo in France. In later years, John would stress the importance of travel abroad at an early age, to assimilate as many different cultural experiences as possible and to develop one's artistic personality.
He was very nervous that Timberlake knew his true age and his family background, particularly that his father had never played in a large orchestra or with a well-known conductor. Later, whenever they met, knowing that the other knew the truth as opposed to seemingly autobiographical articles in journals such as the Radio Times, John would plead, 'You won't tell anything, will you?' Even though he looked upon his father as a joke, as a romantic John created an image which he presented to the world. He had himself inherited so many of his father's physical characteristics. Six foot six inches tall, with Eddie and his father likewise, the three would seem like giants as they walked together. In later years John was remarked upon for his apparent calm and ability to cope even under the most difficult conditions. He learnt to withdraw from harsh reality, presenting a facade which hid his own private world by immersing himself in music. That he was prone to stress from his vulnerability to the paternal as opposed to maternal influence, probably accounts for his future attitude to managements, transferring them into the ogre that was his father and at the same time retaining his father's working-class perception, 'them and us' or 'he and I' in another form.
The Pritchards were a large family and at every opportunity, as a means of protecting Stanley from the pressurc of his father, Amy would take her son to visit his elderly Aunt, Ada pritchard in Gravesend during the half term holidays, as it was she who assisted the family financially. Amy's brother Stanley and his family lived in Scotland. "The Scottish branch", as john would refer to them, would come to London every summer during the early thirties as the Pritchards could never afford to travel there. To his younger cousin, Eric Shaylor, the holidays were not necessarily a pleasant time. He had just started playing the piano and although only nine years old, whenever he visited Cromwell Road his uncle wanted him to play the piano constantly. Eric commented: 'I think that the dedication of his father must have helped to produce this marvellous artist. We just thought at the time that he was a slave-driver!' The house in Walthamstow was always filled with the sound of music which, in retrospect, he quite enjoys but at the time he hated. 'I think that the discipline that you have to have to be a musician of standing was from his father but the warmth of his personality was certainly from his mother.' Significantly, he added, 'I never saw his father smile.'
Whilst it was inevitable that Stanley would become a musician, at one time he considered becoming a writer. Fluency and the cnjoytnent of the play of words and sounds was remarked on early. Never receiving less than an 'A' for English, French and Music at school, his report at the age of twelve was the blueprint for his life: 'He has a distinct bent for linguistic and literary subjects. For his age, he writes an English of exceptional finish, has a wide vocabulary and excellent powers of definition. While these qualities should later stand him in good stead he must :It present try to improve his weak subjects. Somewhat inconstant III his devotion to mathematics.' In his Maths' reports there is a continual pattern of 'C' with a bad report, a subsequent carpeting from his father, followed by a 'B' then a slipping back to 'C' again. 'Conduct: Occasionally restless and talkative.' Matriculation with honours and three prizes at the final Speech Day were a tribute to his own ability, the devotion of his parents and an exceptional school. The choir at St Stephen's and now his school had refined his accent and given him a polish unobtainable from his background. He showed his gratitude to the Monoux when he arranged for a group of boys to visit Glyndebourne for rehearsals in June 1964.