Extract from the Annual Lecture to the Arts Council of England, 8 February 1996, Sir Ernest Hall:
"...1946 is a year I remember well. The war had just ended and there was a strong spirit of idealism and tile desire to create a more beautiful world which even as a schoolboy I sensed. 1946 was also the year I left school and prepared to enter the place of my dreams, as a pianist and composer. I was leaving a world in which I had felt fear, unhappiness and injustice but on one occasion I had been inspired and it was enough. It was an experience I had been prepared for by my childhood addiction to fairy stories of wonder and beauty, of miraculous transformations from scullery maid to princess, from poverty to untold riches, from ugly duckling to white swan.
I was about eight or nine years old in St. George’s Primary, School in Bolton. One day a stranger came into the classroom with a gramophone and some records and I still remember the excitement I felt as he described the music ‘ghostly dancers mysteriously appearing and disappearing’ and then he put on a record. The sound which emerged was beautiful beyond anything I had experienced. It was Apollo’s Lyre. It thrilled and excited some inner recesses of my mind which had until then been dormant. Even though I was in public it felt as though I had made a unique and secret discovery which would change my life. From the moment of that discovery I had an insatiable appetite to listen to more and more music. At about the same age of nine, I discovered a piano on a visit to some relatives and my, obsession and delight in playing it persuaded my parents to buy one.
We lived in one small room in which everyone ate, talked, listened to the radio and my younger brothers played, but no one ever complained about the hours I spent practising every day in preparation for what I had decided would be my career. No sound I made could match the quality, of the music to which I listened but the more beautiful it was and the more remote in miraculous facility from my own technique, the harder I worked. My, passion to play was nourished by, the inspiration I experienced in listening to more and more wonderful music. It was Blake who illuminated the connection between listening and playing for me.
‘Prayer is the study of Art
Praise is the practice of Art’
My discovery of music was so enriching and intensely beautiful that I wanted to share it with everyone..."