Trip to Mrs Wilson's

Criffel Street, Silloth - Version 2

It was great to go up to Silloth for the opening of Mrs Wilson's Coffee House. The Mrs Wilson in question is 1930s Silloth resident contralto, Kathleen Ferrier, who started taking her singing seriously when she was living over the bank in Eden Street. There comes a point in most people's lives when they look around at their current life and realise it's not all perfect. At that point, what do you do? Shoulder a bit of depression and carry on as you are, or make some changes?

Things were changing for young Mrs Wilson - Silloth in 1935 was a little seaside town, bustling in the summer and quiet in the winter. Kath was sporty and must have known of local golfer Miss Cecil Leitch who won 3 British Ladies championships between 1914 and 1921. In Miss Leitch, Silloth had already produced a brilliant talent and nurtured it to the top level.

When she won the Carlisle Festival singing prize in 1937, Mrs Wilson must have been encouraged to continue developing her singing. She made her first radio broadcast as a singer two years later. Another two years after that, she was touring nationally as a professional singer with CEMA. 

It strikes me that Mrs Wilson must have made a decision when she was living in Silloth to  'go for it' with her singing. The town's community provided opportunities to present herself as pianist, actress and singer and also to develop her healthy physique with golf, tennis, cycling, swimming and, crucial for a singer, wonderful air, and lots of it! Yet, without the inner drive to progress to a bigger platform, Mrs Wilson would have remained a local musician and the national and international career of Kathleen Ferrier would not have happened.

As a teacher of singing, I encounter fantastic singing talent all the time. Indeed, Britain's Got Talent! We are all talented: naturally suited to certain tasks, whether by physical build or intellectual bent. Experience tells me that talent does not make a top level musician, commitment does. When I encounter a student singer with determination to put in the necessary hours and transform their potential into real skill, then I get excited. For a professional singer, the necessary hours will number in the tens or indeed hundreds of thousands, but a lifetime commitment to singing can also fit in with commitment to other things, such as caring for dependents, employment and so on. It just takes a decision to 'go for it' and see it through. 

Young Mrs Wilson in Silloth did not have the obligations of job or children to balance, but she still didn't have to commit to the demands of vocal development - she could have read novels or worked on her golf handicap instead. It was her choice, and she made it in Silloth. It happens to have led her to international fame. We all have choices, wherever we are. Go for it!


April 2020