This article is devoted to one man, someone I like to think of as the “Father of the Choir, which is more familiarly known as Heyford Singers” – Hugh Adams. I use the term “devoted” in the widest possible sense for Hugh is a much loved and highly respected member of our local community. I have known Hugh Adams as a friend for many years, and was privileged to teach at Bliss Charity School whilst he was Chairman of the governing body. He not only shared his desire to see every child reach their full potential, to extend their learning and embrace as many opportunities as possible, but also to experience the great outdoors. And it was over numerous plans and discussions about the use of the conservation area behind the school playground that the seeds of the Outdoor Classroom were sown!
But what of the man and music, what was his journey through life to become such a mainstay of the basses in our choir?
Hugh came from a musical family; his brothers sang in choirs and his sisters were keen pianists. As a young child Hugh left for boarding school, Bishop Stortford College, and it was during those formative years that he found his voice and his love of singing, first as a treble, then an alto, and finally a tenor when his voice broke. As is so often the case it was one particular teacher who recognised Hugh’s musical talent as this early age. A revered music teacher, Mr Tidmarsh who himself had a deep bass singing voice, claimed that young Hugh had the perfect size hand to play the cello. He subsequently offered to give Hugh free cello lessons for a term, such was his belief in the music potential of his young pupil! Sadly Hugh declined, believing that the cello wasn’t necessarily a very good solo instrument. However he did learn to play the piano, although when grades and exams beckoned, to mark achievement and progress, he gave up piano lessons, a move that he regrets to this very day!
After leaving school Hugh returned to the farming traditions of his family, but also became a member of the Home Guard. In 1942 he joined the army, serving on active service in the Royal Dragoons. He was amongst those soldiers who, two days before D Day, drove into Copenhagen and a liberated Denmark, to be greeted by millions of grateful people on the streets. Fifty years later, to mark the anniversary of the liberation, Hugh and many of his army colleagues, were honoured to be invited by the Danish government to take part in the commemorations.
The love of music remained and whilst living and farming in Nether Heyford; Hugh and his wife joined Bugbrooke Choral Society, which was at that time conducted and directed by Michael Latham, The piano accompanist was one of the French teachers, Derek, a great character who regularly entertained the choir members with his amusing anecdotes. The Choral Society sang at numerous venues around the county.
And so onto the Heyford Singers. When it was formed in 2002 Hugh was a founder member of the male bass section, where he has loyally remained ever since. With his rich deep bass voice Hugh has been a much valued contributor to this male voice part. I’m sure he will agree if I say that there are some songs that he finds more straightforward, others more complex in their rhythms or words. When the men sing their numerous repeats of “H’rum pum, h’rum pum, h’rum pum” (The Little Drummer Boy) or “By the rivers of Babylon” from song of the same name, Hugh’s wry comments can have the choir in stitches!
The musical legacy of the Adams family has reached far down the generations. Hugh’s daughter and son-in-law sing in two choirs, and his son Nick sings baritone in three choirs. A tenor grandson is a member of the Phoenix choir, whilst a great grandson has recently achieved a distinction for singing at his school. How proud Hugh must be of such a musical tradition in his family!
Hugh continues to enjoy music, especially classical music and light opera, and listening to the radio is a great joy. Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” (quoted above) is one of Hugh favourites. Each variation is a musical sketch of one of the composer’s close acquaintances, a distinct idea based on a particular personality or an incident known only to two people. It is a beautiful piece of music, and perhaps reflects High’s own varied life, his experiences and his wide circle of friends and family.
Thank you Hugh, for letting us tiptoe through your past and your love of music.
If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:
alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.