Sylvia Davies – an appreciation

Sylvia, who died on New Year’s day this year at the age of 86, will be known to many in SWEMF as a longstanding member who contributed enormously to the successful running of our organisation.

Sylvia grew up in Ayr, where her parents kept a shop. It was a very musical town at the time, and Sylvia learned piano and sang in the choir at Ayr Academy, before proceeding to read chemistry at St Andrews university. However, she retained her interest in music, and when she settled in Bristol, after a number of moves, marrying David and becoming mum to Tim, she quickly established herself as a recorder teacher. She also took up the viol, and continued to play keyboard.

Sylvia had great patience with learners, both on recorder and viol, and is remembered by many for the encouragement and support she gave them. One recorder pupil who went on to obtain an ABRSM performing diploma in singing says that she would never have achieved that level had not Sylvia taught her to read music. She organised and took part in groups which welcomed beginners, introducing a number of people to the viol.

For a long period up to 2003, Sylvia was the editor of the SWEMF Diary, and also organised many workshop days, most of them either in Exeter or Thorverton. These included recorder consort sessions for pre-formed groups, and ‘voices and instruments’ days with a variety of tutors. But perhaps the events with which she is most strongly associated are the baroque chamber music playing days, which she and Dick Little organised together for nine years, first in Thorverton and then in Cheddar. These involved an enormous amount of work, not just the usual workshop tasks of venue booking and registering applications, but sorting applicants into balanced groups, finding appropriate music, and making sure there were enough keyboards available – she often brought her own spinet. Dick pays tribute to her ‘exceptional organisational skills and wonderful musicianship’.

Even in her later years, when poor health curtailed her active music-making, she welcomed her regular viol consort to play in her spacious music room, providing us with tea and plentiful biscuits, and enjoying a bit of gossip about Bristol musical circles. She will be very sadly missed, but certainly not forgotten.

Clare Griffel
(with contributions from Dick Little, Frances Zagni, Ellen O’Gorman and others, and from Sylvia’s son Tim)