Obituary: David Gow

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The Independent Online
MAY I suggest two additions to the excellent and full obituary by Graham Melville-Mason of David Gow (1 March)? writes Jack Woolford.

The reference to lectures for the Workers' Educational Association merits amplification. Not only did Gow lecture. He strongly identified himself with the adult education movement and while living at Benenden (in a converted oast-house) worked with the WEA in collaboration with the then Oxford University Delegacy for Extra-mural Studies, virtually full-time as a part-time tutor for the classes and summer schools at various Oxford colleges and at Kingsgate College in Kent.

His lectures, illustrated in detail from tapes he himself compiled despite his strong visual handicap, were meticulously researched but lightly and humorously delivered. Though not a pianistic virtuoso he occasionally accompanied soloists, and himself, in German lieder: he had a fine baritone voice. He would recruit and train a choir in a week and, in addition, could play any tune by ear and was the ideal accompanist for the soap operettas produced at the end of every summer school. The libretti were improvised in verse from topical events of the week, and the tunes for arias and choruses borrowed from every possible source, from opera to jazz.

Even more worthy of recall are the operettas he wrote and composed himself for the same summer schools. He was a witty librettist and could write good-quality, easily singable, popular tunes. Unfortunately he did not need to write them down, though the libretti may survive in private collections. The last one was a quite savage satire on the then chiefs of the Extra-mural Delegacy who failed to appoint him to the Staff Tutorship he so desperately needed and which his full-time colleagues thought (and said) he deserved. He certainly also contemplated composing the score to a libretto by Wolf Mankovitz for the West End stage.