The First Joining

the story of my first meeting with Roy Hart

Roy and Paul rehearsing 'Mariage de Lux' in London 1973, Photo: Ivan Midderigh

"On 22nd August 1963, I stepped out of Golders Green Hill station and turned left and walked up the hill for a quarter of an hour. Golders Green is a drab place, neither gold nor very green but that morning the sun was shining and I found a certain spring in my step and lift in my heart as I walked those London pavements.

It is strange to think now that at that moment I was walking up the road of my destiny. At the time, I don't think I was anticipating anything. I reached my destination, no.133. It was a small semi-detached house with a garden of jungle like neglect. I walked up the crazy-paving path to a dark recessed front door and rang the bell. A man came to the door. He was of medium height, fairly portly and as he was wearing khaki shorts, I was immediately struck by his strong muscular thighs. He had fine thinning blonde hair, roughly shaven jowls and thick set glasses with dark frames. His eyes were very pale blue and there was a large space between his two front teeth.

His hand shake was firm, his greeting was warm. His name was Roy Hart and he was 37 years old.

Roy led me through the dark hallway passed the front room to the only other room on the ground floor. The door was opened and I was in the singing studio, the room where "dreams were resussitated". The room was rather small but it managed to contain a single bed, an arm chair, a small writing desk with a glass fronted book case above it, a blue leather swivvel chair and an upright piano. The carpet was blue and the ceiling was clad with unpainted egg boxes. On the wall above the piano was an impressive painting, which I later learnt to be of Alfred Wolfsohn holding a challis. The inner side of the door through which I had just walked was padded with blue artificial leather. The French window gave out onto a small back garden, in the same state as the front garden, only worse.

I was 25 years old at the time and I was wearing a blue double breasted suit. This is something that Roy and I would recall with much amusement many years later. I had brought my audition pieces with me. This was after all, I thought, an audition.

"Paul, why have you come here to work on your voice with me?"

"Because as an actor, I find I have a rather high effeminate voice that is rather monotonal"

"Do you associate height with feminity?"

"Yes" I said.

He indicated the piano to me. "Where does depth finish and height begin?"

I pointed to middle C. He never said a word to me by way of response.

Some years later, I realised that the answer should have gone something like this. "Height begins at the bottom of the piano and finishes at the top. Depth starts at the top of the piano and finishes at the bottom. This overlapping inter-relationship between height and depth is also reflected in the nature of sexuality."

Had I been able to answer this question correctly, I would have been a truly remarkable person. Happily this was not the case, I still had a journey to make.

During that first lesson, I remember I worked quite high up the piano into my feminine sounds, which he found rather beautiful. After a while, he stopped and turned to me and said "You must love womankind very much. Strangely I think I did have an intuitive understanding of what he meant in saying that at that precise moment.

We must have worked and talked for at least two hours. I was tired but I certainly had begun on an internal journey, one which would take some time to digest and in which dreams would be resuscitated.

"See you same time next week, Paul."

"See you next week, Roy."

And that was it. Some years later, after more of "seeing you next week", I realised that I had indeed become a member of the Roy Hart Theatre or Roy Hart Speakers as we were first known a couple of years after our first meeting.

Little did I think that this was the begining of a voice training that would come to the point where I now sing a series of concerts called "Informally yours...."

The above text is an axtract from the book "A Celebration of Life"

Photograph: Paul Silber; Roy Hart giving singing lesson 'The Ridgeway' London 1965

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