Heyford Singers – April/May 2021


A year ago, I wrote the April article for the Prattler, just as we began the first lockdown. Beautiful spring days with summer ahead of us, yet the uncertain feeling of being confined to our own small patches, wary of a new threat to our way of life. In the twelve months since we have seen sadness and suffering, experienced loneliness and loss, and missed our families and friends. Yet time passes, the seasons come round again and with spring the eternal message of hope and new beginnings. There is much to look forward to, much to savour each new day, and much to cherish and remember.

Meetings and AGM’s have continued throughout the year, albeit in 2D format, and so it was with Heyford Singers AGM on 5th March. At this meeting I stepped down from the role of Secretary, after ten years in post. It was shortly after I retired from Bliss Charity School that Bob Wilson, then Chairman, persuaded me to take on the responsibility of secretary. I have really enjoyed ‘keeping the little grey cells busy’, it has honed my IT skills considerably and I am delighted that the choir has gone from strength to strength during that time.

Geoff Allen is taking over as secretary and will do a wonderful job. He informs me that Heyford Singers is one of the very few village committees that he has not served on!

Tony Wright will maintain his very long-standing commitment to the choir by joining the committee (and representing the basses), replacing Frances Johnson who has also decided to step down. Frances has served the choir with enthusiasm and dedication since its formation, and we all hope that she will still be there to support the altos for many days to come.

Arthur Hanley has finally relinquished the post of Village Hall Representative for the choir, doing a longer tour of duty than his intended one year. Alwyne Wilson has agreed to succeed Arthur in this post, which enables her to continue her very strong links with everything pertaining to village hall activities in Heyford!

I would like to thank Frances and Arthur for their years of hard work on the committee, Geoff, Tony and Alwyne for taking on the vacant roles, but also to everyone else in Heyford Singers, committee and choir, who work so hard to make this organisation such a wonderful part of our village community.

The HS committee is almost fifty percent male now (with Mike Andrew and Keith Rands-Allen)! We would now dearly like to recruit more men to sing with us. The choir is fun, it’s sociable, it’s so good for your wellbeing, it ticks the boxes of everything we’ve missed this past year – so why not think about it?

Take care, look after yourselves and each other.

*I may no longer be taking the minutes at meetings, but I shall continue to write these articles for the Prattler for as long as there is someone happy to read them!

Jill Langrish


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.


Letters: Dee Hillyard

Sadly, our Mum Dee passed away in Northampton General Hospital on 19th February aged 88 years. She had been admitted to hospital following a routine Doctors appointment at Bugbrooke Surgery. Mum was well known in Heyford as she spent 22 years as a school dinner lady at Bliss from the early 70’s to 1997. As a family we still have the newspaper article from the Chronicle & Echo with a lovely photo of Mum with some of the children. The article said she hung up her apron the day before her 65th birthday!

The Prattler also featured a full-page piece written by then teacher Jill Langrish about Mum and all that she experienced at school. (Reproduced below). The lovely comments we have received from past pupils has been really comforting. Especially those messages about wobbly teeth, grazed knees, ‘seconds’ at lunchtime and lots of reassuring hand holding.

Mum was born one of nine, in Kislingbury, and leaves behind her older sister Daph (Faulkner) who still lives in Church Street. When she married Dad (Alan) in 1959 they started married life in Heyford and never left. They lived first at the B&B in Church Street and then in Church Lane where they had Sheena and Mark before moving to Furnace Lane where both Paul and Sara were born. This was the family home, at number 72, until Mum & Dad downsized in 2008 to their lovely bungalow at 5 The Pound. They used to say that they had the best view in the village, out across The Green.

We have lovely memories of Mum and Dad going off to play bingo at the village hall when we were young. Mum also enjoyed a game of cards and kept this tradition going on Christmas Day until a few years ago. It was something she took seriously!

She will be truly missed and we are sure many people have many memories of Mum as she used to walk up and down Furnace Lane, with her shopping, and would stop to chat on the way.

Sheena, Mark, Paul & Sara.

From Spam Fritters to Hula Hoops

Twenty-two years ago on 20 October 1975 a new dinner lady joined the lunchtime staff of Bliss Charity School, a staff that included Mrs Clarke, Mrs Faulkner and Mrs Nial. The new dinner lady was Mrs Dee Hillyard and she was appointed to a temporary post with one month’s probation.

Her duties were to work in the kitchen preparing the food and then serve it to the children. At that time the teachers supervised the children in the school hall but in time, this became the responsibility of the dinner ladies together with clearing away plates and cutlery, wiping tables and sweeping the floor. Then it was out to the playground, in winter to button up coats and help fingers into gloves, and in summer to shelter from the sun and allow trips to the drinking fountain. The playground crazes of Hopscotch, Skipping, Tig, Tazos, Football Stickers and Marbles have all been part of Mrs Dee Hillyard’s “lunchtime diet” over the years.

As the years passed so another area of the hall was developing, that of the packed lunch group. Now the dinner ladies had to open Thomas the Tank Engine lunch boxes, peel back yoghurt tops and pour drinks from flasks. These ‘picnickers’ became more numerous and in March 1992 the school kitchen finally closed, the
kitchen staff departed and lunchtime supervision was left to the three dinner ladies.

But whilst the weather outside remained as unpredictable as ever, the children, like their choices of food changed term by term, year by year. With hundreds of children, Dee Hillyard has watched their games, enjoyed their secrets, marvelled at their appetites and perhaps been surprised by their table manners!

Mrs Dee Hillyard has lived in Nether Heyford for over 30 years and is a mother of four children, Sheena, Mark, Paul and Sarah. When these children grew up she acquitted a new set of children to enjoy – her grandchildren Kelly, Ben and Louise. Several years ago Dee’s husband Alan was very seriously injured in a road traffic accident. It was a difficult time for her and her family but time, patience and care resulted in a full recovery for Alan Hillyard. Although Dee had a few days absences from school at the time of the accident she was soon back at work. We all admired her strength and fortitude at such an emotional time.

So, sadly on 20 June we will be saying goodbye to Dee as she retires on her 65th birthday. We are Bliss School, staff, parents, governors and above all the children, who will miss her very much. We would like to say “Thank You” for the past 22 years. We hope you have a very happy birthday and an even happier retirement. You certainly deserve it, especially the lunchtimes.

Jill Langrish

Article from The Prattler – 1997

Heyford Singers – February & March 2021


A belated but heartfelt happy New Year to everyone.

2020 is past, a year to put behind us, but not to forget. It seems that each and everyone of us had our own personal suffering, lost someone very special or experienced difficulties. Kindness, compassion, empathy, love and community have never been so important in our lives. May we take these virtues with us into 2021 and beyond.

As we said “Goodbye to 2020”so we also bade farewell to Hugh Adams, who sadly died just before Christmas. A gentle giant of our community, Hugh touched so many lives in his long and happy life, not least Heyford Singers of which he was a proud and enthusiastic member since it was formed in 2002. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. But like so many friends and family that we have lost recently we dearly hope, in time, to come together, to share memories, and to celebrate the lives of all those special people.

With such positive thoughts in mind the committee of Heyford Singers have begun, albeit tentatively, to plan for rehearsals in September and a programme for a Christmas concert. How joyful an occasion that will be! And maybe something else in the summer… who knows!!

Take care as we weather the cold, dark days of winter, but look for early signs of spring. Stay healthy and content, look after one another, and may music feature somewhere in your life every day.

Jill Langrish


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.


Allotment News – February/March 2021

New Plots
We currently have three vacant allotment plots available for rent. They have been cleared and covered with tarpaulin so should be in good condition for anyone interested in taking on an allotment this year. We have also tried to reduce the size of vacant plots (and make them more manageable) by halving some larger areas of land. Of course, if a keen gardener wants a bigger plot then these can be doubled up. The vacant plots measure roughly 8m x 8m and cost in the region of £10 per year. That has to be amazingly good value.

In addition, we have several vacant starter plots that are free for the first year and measure just 2m x 8m. They are ideal if you want to try out allotmenting but are unsure about a making a big commitment. We even have a few tools available for those completely new to gardening.

If you are interested in taking up any of these offers and joining the enthusiastic band of new allotmenteers who took on the challenge in 2020 then contact Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Rent Night

That didn’t happen, and we all know why!

By the time allotment holders read this article they should have all had notification of their rent for 2021 and the due date. Rent can now be paid by bank transfer (details included on the rent notice) or by cheque, deliverable to Lynda Eales at 3 Church Lane or Guy Ravine at 63 Furnace Lane.

The Memory Tree
We will be planting a flowering tree in the allotment community area during the coming months in memory of allotment holders who have either died in the recent past or have experienced loss, particularly during the current health crisis.

Readers of these articles will be aware that trees have a very special place in our hearts and it was our unanimous decision that there could be no better way of remembering those dearest to us.

Mike Langrish 

Allotment News – December 2020

A warm welcome is extended to all new allotment holders (and those who are planning to join us in 2021). It has been heartening to see so many new allotmenteers in recent weeks. Plots that had once been derelict or have become vacant will now be put to good use and enable us to continue making the site on Watery Lane something of which the village can be proud.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We have only a few vacant plots left, although two of those are the small “starter plots” that were created two years ago to give people the opportunity for people try out allotmenting free of charge for one year. If tenants like what they have been doing, they can transfer to a proper allotment (and pay rent) the following year. The cost of renting is not expensive and the vast majority of plots range from between £12 and £30 per year. Now that has got to be good value!

Rent Night
It was originally hoped to have our annual rent night in January. With the current uncertainty surrounding Coronavirus restrictions we are not in a position to confirm whether that will take place or whether we will be able to use the village youth club building. Please bear with us. Regardless of what happens, the rent due will be posted to each allotment holder in due course.

A beautiful commemorative bench has been set in place in our community orchard to remember the life and achievements of Sue Corner. Without her tireless efforts much of what we see on the allotments today would not have come to fruition.

Mike Langrish 

All the flowers of all the tomorrows
Are in the seeds of today and yesterday
(An Indian Proverb)

Heyford Singers – A tribute to Alan Watson – December 2020


A tribute to Alan Watson

It was with much sadness that we heard, on 27th October, that Alan Watson had died, after a long but determined battle with illness. We have lost someone who was very much part of this village, a contributor to many of its activities and organisations.


Alan, Pam and their two young sons moved to Nether Heyford in 1975 when Alan was appointed headteacher at Bliss Charity School, living initially in the school house before moving to Wakefield Way. Thus began a long and close relationship with Nether Heyford. He taught hundreds of children in his time there, gave them a wonderful start in life and a set of guidelines to hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Alan was first and foremost a teacher in the classroom, where he was happiest! At his retirement 28 years later Alan said that he had loved every moment, never had a bad day. I was privileged to work at Bliss with Alan for many years and have many happy memories of that time, becoming not only a work colleague but a close friend as well. Whilst not an overly keen coach traveller Alan did respond enthusiastically to the school’s Queen’s Golden Jubilee adventure in 2002 … to take the whole school to London for the day! Many will recall the fleet of coaches outside the school that summer morning, everyone went on the London Eye, KS1 had a river trip, KS2 toured the Globe theatre, then a sightseeing tour of the capital before a happy and weary return to base!

To many, Alan was a quiet, private, family man, but there was a very theatrical side to him as well! A regular performer in the annual village panto’s, he usually played the villain, giving his pupils the chance to boo their headteacher! When the Heyford Morris side was formed, Alan joined, generously offering the school hall as a regular practice venue. He relished the role of telling audiences in market squares and on village greens about the various dances performed. When Pam’s dance group, Queens Oak Ladies Morris, were short of a dancer Alan (aka Alana) stepped into the breach, although not necessarily wearing a dress!

Alan was a very fit and active person, he enjoyed walking in the countryside with Heyford Amblers and Bugbrooke Strollers, and at home he tended his garden and allotment, also belonging to Heyford Garden Club. He loved travel, France and Italy were favourite destinations and he and Pam spent many happy holidays there. Alan’s mind was ever active and he retained a great thirst for learning, becoming a keen member of CLASP and Whitehall archaeology group, taking part in ‘digs’, field walking and processing the finds. When Roberts Field was built Alan supervised the organisation and placing of a time capsule with the children at Bliss, connecting the present to the future.

But it is with music that I shall end this tribute. Alan loved music and especially singing. As a child he sang in his local church choir, eventually achieving the status of head choirboy at St Michael’s Church in Bournemouth. He developed a fine baritone voice which could often be heard soaring above others at school concerts, church services and other music events. Soon after it was formed Alan joined Heyford Singers and was a loyal and enthusiastic member. He thoroughly enjoyed the concerts and rehearsals, often performing solos or participating in readings and comic sketches. Even when cruel illness made him less mobile and he could not communicate as freely as he would have wished, he never gave up and continued to come to rehearsals and sing! The song quoted above was one of Alan’s favourites, he knew it by heart and sang it with heartfelt joy. It was played at his funeral, and would have been sung by Alan and the choir of Heyford Singers at the postponed concert in May. When we return to rehearsals and our next concert, we shall sing this song for Alan, sadness in our voices but in loving memory of someone who loved to sing, to share the joy of music, and feel “strong”.

Alan will be sorely missed by so many people, not least Pam, his family and his grandchildren. We, the community in Nether Heyford, are the poorer for his passing but richer for having known him. I do hope that in due course we, as a village, are able to mark Alan’s huge contribution to our school and community.

Jill Langrish


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.


Allotment News – November 2020

Still much to do
There is a feeling at this time of the year that everything is finished on the allotment. The last tomatoes have been picked and any green ones are now ripening on a windowsill. The bean frames are leaning over at an alarming angle and any pods that have clung on are turning brown. The flowers that once grew amongst our veg have either faded or are, like the condemned man, awaiting the first frost. It can seem like gloom and doom arrives with the month of November. The poet Thomas Hood had this feeling when he wrote:

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, –

But I’m having none of that. If we look around us there is still so much to be done and, more importantly, so much that the allotment can give us in return.

We are currently using the empty beds to store winter hardy plants for next spring’s bedding – Wallflowers, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves and Marigolds. The green manure that we sowed as we lifted our potatoes and onions has grown vigorously and now gives our soil a warm blanket of green that will be dug in as the winter progresses. The compost we have nurtured all summer will be spread over the soil that is bare and any crops we still have in the ground like leeks and parsnips will be harvested with extra relish in the dark months ahead.

Alan Jenkins in his wonderful book Plot 29 says that he visits his allotment as to an elderly relative and is dutiful, loyal. I think of it as a friend who still needs me when the winter sun is low. The truth, of course, is that it is me who has the need – to nurture, to walk through memories. To grow.

As you will be aware if you have visited the allotments over the past year, the plots are in a good state of repair. They have been well tended, pathways have been mown and lots of produce has been grown. And how lovely to see so many flowers being cultivated amongst all that fruit and veg. However, there will be some basic maintenance tasks to carry out over the winter, including covering plots for new owners to take on in the new year. We are also keen to tidy up the area by the Watery Lane entrance so that it does not become a dumping ground but a space where manure or compost could be delivered. We are also keen to carry out some work on the large shed by the orchard, improving storage and strengthening the structure. If you are able to assist in any of these tasks we would love to hear from you and will be publishing details of when we will be starting work in the coming months.

Our thanks goes to all those people who have helped with the upkeep of the allotments over the past year, whether that be giving of time and labour so generously or donating equipment for general use. Your support is appreciated.

The Orchard
Our fruit trees have grown really well this year and the area we planted up just two years ago is beginning to look like a real orchard. I would like to think that this time next year we will be picking fruit and asking you to share in our bounty. Basic tree maintenance will continue in the winter and early spring.

Dave Musson has been keeping readers of the Prattler fully informed of developments in the wildlife area with his monthly articles, so suffice to say that the bio diversity that he and Mark and Mary Newstead have helped create in that area has enhanced what we on the allotments do, day in, day out. That is something we all benefit from.

A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com (01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We have a few vacant plots but at least five local residents who are keen to begin allotmenting. Rent night will be held in January – more details in the next edition of the Prattler. It is hoped that by then we can reallocate vacant plots so that everyone is able to benefit from this wonderful village resource.

Mike Langrish 

Heyford Singers – November 2020


A tribute to Joan Hanley

Nearly forty years ago on a preparatory visit to Nether Heyford before our move here (Bliss Charity School for one son, playgroup for another, and the all-important allotment) we wandered into Manor Park to have yet another look at our soon-to-be home, when we met Joan Hanley. She chatted to us, extolling the praises of this village, its friendly community and its facilities, undoubtedly a lovely place to work and bring up a young family. It was the beginning of a long friendship with this very special lady. But there is much history to Joan, and it begins many years before our first meeting …

Joan was born in December 1925 in the small Yorkshire village of Bubwith, where she later attended the local primary school, before moving onto a girls’ grammar school in Selby. Although Joan’s father and brother both enjoyed singing, the “cronky” piano with its untuned sound was the only instrument in the house. However Joan showed an early interest in learning to play the piano, received lessons from the village church organist and achieved Grade 8 before going off to train as a teacher in Ripon, studying music and history. It was here that Joan’s organ playing moved to a higher level, taught as she was by Dr Moody, organist of Ripon Cathedral. For two years she was the resident college organist, and on one occasion was invited to play the Cathedral organ for a special event!

Her teaching career began in 1945 at a primary school in Fulford, York where she taught for seven years, now also taking on the permanent post of church organist in her home village. In 1954 Joan applied for her third teaching post,”a first assistant (female)” at Willow Park Junior in Pontefract, which had 500 pupils and was the largest primary school in the West Riding. She got the job and worked alongside Arthur, who also taught at the same school. They married on 27th December 1954. The ensuing years saw Joan taking on more responsibility for music in school, playing the organ and accompanying choirs. She and Arthur joined Pontefract Choral Society, soprano and tenor respectively, and it was here that they developed their love, and experience, for great choral works as well as attending numerous music concerts.

When their daughters, Judith and Pamela arrived, Joan gave up teaching to be a stay at home mum. But as ever music teachers were much revered and Joan was frequently invited back into the classroom, to take music lessons, begin recorder groups, form school choirs and play for assemblies! Joan’s dedication to music in children’s lives was strong and varied! On one interesting occasion there was an evening’s entertainment of Sooty and Sweep with the ever-popular Harry Corbett; when the accompanist failed to turn up for the show Joan stood in at a moment’s notice – another musical accolade!

In 1974 Arthur took up a job with the Northamptonshire Inspectorate and the family relocated to this county, moving into the newly created Manor Park in February 1975 where extensive floods greeted them on their first day! It was to be a very long, settled and happy time for Joan and her family. She taught at Grange Junior School for ten years, and also at the Saturday morning Music School in Daventry. I am sure that there are many people reading this who will fondly remember their Saturday morning music classes with Joan, recorder playing, singing, etc. As a family we were always so grateful for Joan accompanying our son Jeremy on the piano and practising with him for his violin exams, his success in part attributable to her encouragement… and patience!

During my years of teaching at Bliss School I hold lovely memories of Joan playing the church organ for numerous carol concerts, leavers’ services and Harvest Festivals, as well as the occasions when I took my class of little people down to the church and she would let them press the organ keys or pedals! Her passion for music, and her love of children was very evident in her kindness, her delightful sense of humour and the ever-present twinkle in her eye. There are families who have christened their young children, walked down the aisle to be married, or bade farewell to those who have died – all to the musical accompaniment of Joan playing the organ in our local village church.

In 2003, shortly after Heyford Singers was formed, Joan joined the choir as an alto, where she remained a loyal and valued member until age and mobility applied their inevitable restraints. Her legacy with the Singers will live on in every new member who joins “ for the love of music and singing”.

Joan’s last few years were spent in a local care home, until she died in August at the grand age of 94! Her funeral, which was a beautiful and very personal occasion, taken by Reverend Stephen Burrow and Sue Morris, reflected all the aspects of music which Joan so loved – Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring (played on the organ), If with all your hearts (from Mendelssohn’s choral work, Elijah) and My Favourite Things (from The Sound of Music). We will miss Joan, her smile and sense of humour, her love of children, and the musical accompaniment that she gave to so many of our lives. We are all the richer for having known this lovely lady.

I would also like to dedicate this article, and indeed this issue of the Prattler, to all those friends and family members, within our village community, who have died in recent months. Sadly the restrictions of Covid 19 have prevented us sharing the grief, the tears and the hugs that we would normally give so freely. But they all live on in our hearts and leave us, each and every one, with such precious memories.

Take care as we enjoy the beauty of these late autumn days and we look towards the hopes of a new year. Stay healthy and content, take care of one another, and may music feature somewhere in your life every day.

Jill Langrish


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.


Allotment News – October 2020

Continuing a legacy
It was with great sadness that we learnt of Sue Corner’s untimely death at the end of September.

Allotmenteers will recall that her illness was the reason we contacted them in the middle of last month to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the allotments. Sue and her husband Bill have, over the last few years, done so much to help regenerate the allotments and create our community orchard, jam patch, flower bed and wildlife area. We did not want that legacy to be jeopardised. The response from plot holders was most encouraging and offers of help, to particularly keep up the maintenance work carried out by Bill, were plentiful. Sadly Sue’s illness progressed much faster than anticipated hence this sad news.

Sue wanted the allotments (and the village – through the development of the Neighbourhood Plan) to develop and grow sustainably. I’d like to think that we will continue that work. And what a fitting tribute for a very special lady.

Covid continued …
I have been determined to avoid that subject in these articles but a piece I read in my morning newspaper has prompted me to sing again the virtues of growing your own fruit and veg and getting outside in the fresh air – whatever the weather. “Bundle up and embrace an alfresco winter” ran the headline. So I reckon that creating a safe space between people, coupled with all that fresh air and exercise is achieved pretty well on an allotment. Added to which you get exercise and grow stuff to eat. If you bring something warm to wrap up in, along with a hearty snack and warm drink, we even have a welcoming outdoor seating area – where you can of course socially distance. What is there not to like?

As the growing season comes to an end next spring and summer seem to stretch far into the distance. There is however, still much to do. Preparation of ground and basic maintenance makes work in the new growing year so much easier. How about building a couple of compost bins and putting all that green waste we create to good use. It always strikes me that whilst it is good to see recycling of green waste in the council bins, how much more productive to use that to build up the fertility of our own soil. There is lots of guidance on how to successfully compost your waste. Readers of the Prattler may recall that several years ago we actually ran a series of articles on this very subject. They are all still available.

In addition there are crops that can be grown throughout the winter, often without too much protection. I’ll go into more detail on that subject in next month’s article.

Finally, and of particular importance to those who think that they couldn’t/can’t manage a whole allotment don’t despair. A number of plot holders have rationalised their holding and covered some areas with plastic sheeting or a landscape fabric, cultivating just what they can manage at the moment. When they are ready to extend their growing again they will have clean areas of soil to work. Alternatively, a number of plot holders have turned part of their plots over to flowers. Dahlias grow well on the allotments and have looked quite stunning this year. Other perennial plants like lavender, rosemary or sage don’t mind a bit of neglect, come back every year and smother weed. We have even created a rhubarb hedge on the community jam patch. It just looks after itself and gives an abundant crop every year.

A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com (01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

Heyford Singers – October 2020


In the last Prattler I posed the question, “What do you think is likely to be the nation’s favourite film theme?” The result was, by a huge margin, the theme to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. It is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, composed and conducted by John Williams with Itzhak Perlman playing the violin.

The film is based on the Booker prize winning book published in 1982, written by Thomas Keneally and originally titled Schindler’s Ark. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party who became an unlikely hero by saving the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. A non-fiction novel that is at times unbearingly moving as it describes actual people and places, with fictional events, dialogue and scenes added by the author.

Poldek Pfefferberger, a Holocaust survivor, initially inspired Thomas Keneally to write the book and then following its success, used his friendship with Steven Spielberg’s mother, to eventually persuade the renowned film director to tell Schindler’s story on screen, and portray the horrors of Hitler’s attempts to make Europe judenfrei. The result was a film that almost “stunned’ the cinema going public . Its bleakness was emphasised by being shot primarily in black and white, with one particularly traumatic scene where a red coat is used to distinguish a little girl caught up in the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.

John Williams composed the music for the film, and it is reported that he was so overwhelmed by the film that to write a suitable score would be too challenging for him. He said to Spielberg, “You need a better composer than I am for this film”, to which the director responded, “ I know. But they’re all dead!” How fortunate the world of music is that John Williams took on the task of composing such a beautiful and haunting soundtrack.

Like many other people I clearly remember going to see the film when it was first released in 1993. When the credits rolled and the violin played its solo piece, we saw the faces of the real people who had featured in the events depicted in the film. The entire audience sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, no one wanting or willing to break the spell of what we had watched and experienced together. It was, and still is, one of the most moving and collective responses that I have ever known.

A few years ago we went, during a cold bleak winter, to Krakow and amongst several other memorial sites, toured one of the factories owned by Oskar Schindler. A visit to the sites of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps was very emotional, an important pilgrimage towards a greater understanding of such dark days in our recent history.

Even today and many years later, I can never hear the music of Schindler’s List, without it evoking all those memories and experiences, the places, the people, the book, the film.

Such is the power of music

Take care as we enjoy the beauty of these autumn days and we look towards a new year lives. Stay healthy and content, take care of one another, and may music feature somewhere in your life every day.

Jill Langrish


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.