The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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May 2017

Jane Garland

Gill Perrin

29th February 1932 - 20th March 2017


Jane’s family recall that the Garland home was “always full of music”. It cemented a lifetime of long friendships too, and I feel very privileged to have been invited today to contribute some musical memories.

Jane was a trained musician:  she went to the Royal College at the early age of 17 to study violin and voice.  Afterwards she took a job in the music department at Harrods.  This began to point in characteristic directions:  she spent lunch breaks singing Schubert’s Mass in G with Harrods colleagues (embarking on her lifelong addiction to choral music);  she persuaded a rich Arab to buy a very expensive piano (exercising her considerable powers of persuasion).  Off-duty there was chamber music and - after marriage to Pag - a wide range of music with family and friends, singing anything and everything, from madrigals to Christmas carols in mainline railway stations - in competition with train announcements.

In 1954 she had joined a choir which had originated in St Martin-in-the-Fields during the Blitz, the St Martin Singers, where she fell under the spell of their inspirational conductor, W D Kennedy-Bell.  K-B had devised the distinctive concert programmes with which they travelled all over London and the Home Counties every month, alternating music with readings by professional actors in aid of good causes.  Jane loved this combination of good music and literature, and she loved this exceptional a cappella choir.  She sang with them for 50 years, an exemplary secretary for 30 years of that time.  She made all their arrangements, identifying host venues (“We must have a warm church”, she’d say firmly) and cold-calling unsuspecting actors she’d heard on the BBC to enlist their free services - David Horovitch, Rosalind Shanks (both here today), also Carole Boyd, Harriet Walter, Martin Jarvis, and many others.  Persuasive powers indeed.  Long before databases and spreadsheets, Jane ran an infallible Wicker Basket Management System:  her black file came out of it and she’d relay arrangements with much good humour.  She was devoted to her friends in Singers, and they to her.  She also encouraged them always to look out for new Singers - anywhere:  one week she declared she’d tried recruiting at the fish counter in Waitrose!

Jane had a lovely singing voice.  Matthew Hough (a Singers conductor) recalls Thursday evenings in Ranulf Road, running through songs from Purcell to Poulenc - he specially remembers an exhilarating rendition of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs.  But, though she’d once sung for the Queen, in Grays Inn, she was very modest about her own accomplishments:  she rarely mentioned compositions and arrangements she made for the Singers - happily we shall hear one shortly. To celebrate her retirement the Singers organised a party, telling Jane it was somebody else’s house-warming.  In spite of the prominent display of a large cake decorated with Birds (her maiden name) and Garlands of flowers and Singers’ Green, she did not guess - until after an hour she had to be told - it was all for her.  Afterwards came the hand-written note and characteristic “thanks a million”.  She meant it.
Jane was equally reticent when we recognised her singular contribution to the music in this church by appointing her honorary President of the Friends of the Music.  It’d been her idea to run a “scratch” Requiem here on the eve of Remembrance Sunday.  But instead of tossing the thought to the Committee then leaving us to get on with it, she herself took on the entire organisation, from hiring copies to commissioning home-made biscuits for the singers’ teas. We have sung the four great works by Fauré, Mozart, Brahms and Verdi in rotation ever since;  and it’s due to her original inspiration and commitment that still, 23 years later, we attract over 150 people every year to enjoy the uplifting experience of making wonderful music together in this beautiful place.

This of course, is at the heart of it all - Jane’s abundant sharing of her own joyous experience in music.  She’d say “I need music - it’s a necessity for me” - and because it gave her such profound satisfaction she was determined to give others, performers and audiences, every opportunity within her grasp to enjoy it too.  It was an especially happy coincidence that two people who met through Singers got married, and produced the musician who is now the Director of Music at this church.  In the last few years, even with sadly restricted mobility, Jane has been able to come here and revel in James’s music-making, losing herself in music - described as

    “that beauty of created sound which unlocks the spirit, allows it to soar …”

There is some comfort in the fact that though we - and Pag most of all - have lost an indefatigable, indomitable and wonderful friend, she herself was enriched towards the end by the two musical organisations to which she had given so much. 

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