My education: Fellowship of the Curwen College of Music

The Tonic Sol-Fa College of Music was founded by the Revd. John Curwen (1816-80) at Forest Gate, east London, in 1863. The instrument of government was drawn up in 1869 and incorporation followed in 1875. Curwen had taught himself to read music from a book by the originator of tonic sol-fa, Sarah Glover. He was responsible for developing and integrating the tonic sol-fa method into a comprehensive educational vision for all classes and ages of people that, in his plans for the College, would embrace the training of teachers, the education of students and the provision of a rigorous series of examinations using tonic sol-fa extending from the first grades up to Fellowship. From the outset, the College has always taken a strong interest in choral music. The activities of Curwen’s college were complimented by those of his publishing house, J. Curwen and Sons, which continued as a publisher of educational music until the 1970s.

It was found that the original premises were too far from the centre of London to carry out the College’s mission effectively and therefore new premises were sought. In the early years of the twentieth-century the College was to be found at 27, Finsbury Square, London EC1. From 1939-44 it was housed in Great Ormond Street and in 1944 moved to more spacious accommodation at Queensborough Terrace. During this period, the College was afforded continuity by its long-serving Secretary, Frederick Green, who had been involved with the College from its early years. At one point those wishing to submit for diplomas had first to become shareholders of the College.

In 1967 a decisive development in the College’s history was marked by the appointment of the Revd. Canon Dr. Paul Faunch as Principal of the TSC and Chairman of the separate Curwen International Music Association (a fellowship with especial interest in choral music for past and present students of the College, under the patronage of Dr Zoltan Kodaly). In 1972, he presided over a major re-organisation of the College which saw it re-named and renewed in its pursuit of Curwen’s method. This period saw the College once again housed in the London suburbs, it having removed to Bromley. Dr Faunch died in 1995 and was succeeded by the present Warden, Dr Terry Worroll.

Today, the Curwen College of Music  offers external diploma examinations in practical and theoretical music. In 2003, I was a successful candidate for the Fellowship examination in pianoforte. I was also appointed an Examiner to the College in piano and for dissertations.

About johnkersey

Historian, musician and educationalist.
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