OBITUARY: Margaret Field-Hyde

Margaret Campbell
Thursday 04 January 1996 01:02 GMT

The soprano Margaret Field-Hyde was one of the great Purcell singers of her day. That her death at the age of 90 should fall in the Purcell tercentenary year is a fitting coincidence. She was an all-round accomplished musician and actress.

Born in Cambridge, she was the daughter of F. C. Field-Hyde, a renowned teacher of music, from whom she received her first lessons on the violin and piano at the age of six and later her training as a singer. For many years she played violin in the orchestra of the Cambridge University Musical Association, and in 1928 she made her singing debut in a Cums production of Purcell's King Arthur; this established her as an interpreter of Purcell.

She now concentrated on her singing and acting career and in 1935 played Ariel in The Tempest at Stratford-upon-Avon. The following year she created the part of Angelica in Ralph Vaughan Williams's extravaganza The Poisoned Kiss, and was engaged by John Christie for the 1937 Glyndebourne season - as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro and Papagena to the Papageno of Roy Henderson. She sang in the first broadcast of Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine in 1947 and Poppea in a concert performance of L'Incoronazione di Poppea in 1948.

In 1951 she formed the Golden Age Singers to perform English music during the 1952 Festival of Britain, and these five singers gained a reputation at home and abroad specialising in the madrigals of John Dowland, Thomas Weelkes and other British composers, as well as of the Italians Marenzio and Monteverdi. They made a number of successful recordings.

Field-Hyde was a fine interpreter of 19th- and 20th-century music; she gave the first performance of Elisabeth Lutyens' O saisons, O chateaux! (1947) and took part in the first English performance of Malipiero's Mondi Celesti (1955). She also specialised in French song, having completed her singing studies in Paris with the French tenor and musicologist Yves Tinayre.

As a teacher, Field-Hyde was exceptional in that she was adept at finding a remedy for bad habits formed so often by incorrect teaching. Voice production, she said, was probably the most vulnerable musical study because so few teachers knew how to train the individual voice to work within its own limitations. Her methods were based on assessing the natural potential of each student and her results were often astounding.

Her own voice was sweet, pure and rich at same time, while every syllable could be heard without any sacrifice to the music itself. Her intelligent approach made her performances as a soloist and in her group outstanding. As a woman, she was diminutive, physically attractive and possessed of a delightful bubbly sense of humour.

She married in 1947, Eric Sharples, News Editor of the Arabic Programme in the BBC World Service; he died in 1987.

Margaret Campbell

Margaret Field-Hyde, singer and teacher: born Cambridge 4 May 1905; married 1947 Eric Sharples (died 1987); died Goring-on-Thames 17 December 1995.

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