Music has certainly been an important ingredient in Hattie Bennett’s life, and as proof of this she brought along her favourite instrument – a cello – when she came to speak to Capel Ladies Club in July.
What a fascinating life she has had, too! Born into a musical family, with both her parents members of the Halle Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli, she grew up always hearing music around her. Her father played the cello and her mother the double bass.
From the age of four she was encouraged to learn to play first a child-sized cello, and then a piano, while her brother learnt the violin. By the time she was ten years old she had progressed to the cello, following in her father’s footsteps. They lived in Manchester and her parents were constantly travelling around the country playing in orchestras and concerts wherever they could. At the age of twelve her father took Hattie to play in the Stockport Youth Orchestra, and she absolutely loved it! Playing with other musicians was what she wanted to do, and at nineteen she seized the chance to go to Scotland with her cello to join an orchestra there. Whilst there she became engaged to a trombonist whom she married three months later. They moved to London where she studied at the Royal Academy of Music.
Music was in their blood, but in order to earn enough money to make a living and support their children the couple had to find somewhere economical to live, and in due course they ended up moving to a house in Felixstowe which had an acre of land attached. For a few years they lived self-sufficiently, just like in “The Good Life”, and while Hattie stayed at home and looked after the family and their smallholding her husband went off countrywide playing in orchestras and concerts, and teaching music at local schools.
However, after a few years Hattie’s yearning to get back to music herself inspired her to start an organisation called “Music in Felixstowe”, now in its 23rd season, which brings top musicians to Felixstowe audiences. Part of her mission is to promote talented young local musicians, and she has also launched a string group in one of the town’s primary schools. which puts on an annual performance featuring over 100 local schoolchildren working with professional musicians. There are also a number of concerts in local churches and even occasionally in the open air, some of which are free, but all of which showcase the talents of skilled local musicians. Hattie herself was awarded a B.E.M. in 2016, much to her complete surprise, and the organisation she founded is now a registered charity!
Hattie’s talk was lively, amusing and at times sad, but it was a joyous experience listening to her – particularly as she illustrated the different periods of her life with little ‘taster’ tunes on her cello, including “Old McDonald Had A Farm” and “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” to name but two!
To discover more about Hattie and for information regarding her music concerts see the website: www.felixstowemusic.com