I came upon a rare example of humour on CD Review this morning. The announcer introduced a new CD of 20th century music for viola and piano, apparently by Dame Avril Piston and
Shamonia Harpa . He read out their curricula vitae from the sleeve notes, which ran as follows:
Dame Avril Piston was born to a white titled English family living in
Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1920. She came to London in 1938 to study viola with
Bernard Shore, John Dyer, Winifred Copperwheat and Lionel Tertis himself.
Concertising in London in the 1940’s, she returned home to Rhodesia in 1946
to teach and play. She spent 5 years teaching in India, returning to
Rhodesia in 1961. However, with the declaration of Independence she came to
Britain for a difficult gender changing operation before emigrating to Peru.
She retired to Faccombe, Hampshire in 1996 where she lives with her large
collection of artefacts and English viola music. This is her first solo CD.
Shamonia Harpa was born in Wembley in 1921 and studied piano at the Royal
Academy of Music with York Bowen. A protagonist of English music, she has
performed York Bowen’s 4 Piano Concertos in Bombay and played piano music of
Alec Rowley, John Ireland and Thomas Dunhill to such esteemed guests as
Mahatma Gandhi. For the most part of her life she has been a teacher,
working alongside Dame Avril Piston who since 1940 has been her constant
Dame Avril and her constant companion are apparently well-respected professional players moonlighting incognito, but more than one critic has been taken in.