The British Newspaper Archives make fascinating reading and in the Western Morning News and Daily Gazette of Monday March 14th 1938 I came across a reference to an appearance of the Falmouth Opera Singers, giving two performances at London’s Notting Hill Gate of Mozart’s opera “Idomineo”, with “The chief honours” going to “the orchestra, which, under the baton of Miss Maisie Radford, played crisply throughout”! The story of the Radford sisters, and indeed the Falmouth Opera Singers, is told in their 1965 book, “Musical Adventures in Cornwall”, and the amazing achievements emerging from their St Anthony-in-Roseland cottage and studio are a joy just waiting to be discovered.
They shared their music in W.I’s and village halls and formed choirs and orchestras all over Cornwall, founding the Falmouth Opera Singers in 1923. Their productions of classical opera included the first performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo in England, and performances of Gluck’s operas, which were acclaimed by musicians throughout the country. The best means of transport from St Anthony at the time was by water, and in their own words, “All had to be transplanted by farm cart, by row boat, by steamer, by truck from the steamer, whenever we set out.” To get to their newly founded St Mawes Choral Society, their first permanent choir, they “had only to run down two fields and row across.” The book tells of the dismay of their visiting singer at having to “wade over thick mud in evening dress, through pitch darkness, to launch the rowing boat which was then their only transport back to their Roseland home”.
Their tradition has been continued by their niece, Jennet Campbell, founder of our local band, ‘St Anthony’s Noyse’, and you can read more on the website of the Radford Trust, and of course in their fabulous book, published by David and Charles.