Friday, 5 February 2010

Heddle Nash, Deptford tenor

Thanks to the comments on yesterday's post, I discovered the Deptford-born tenor and between-the-wars opera star, Heddle Nash. He was born in Amersham Vale in 1894, son of a master builder who was also a talented singer. Nash went on to a glittering career, by the end of which he was Professor of Singing at the Royal College of Music, and died in 1961.

Nash was already training in music when the First World War broke out: he sang in the Westminster Abbey choir and won a scolarship to Blackheath Conservatory. Although military service interruped that training, it also brought him together with his wife, a nurse who cared for him after he was wounded. When the war was over, Nash's musical education resumed at Blackheath Conservatory and then in Italy.

He made his operatic debut in Milan in 1924, before returning to London. From 1929 to the Second World War, Nash performed regularly at Covent Garden. He also sang at early Glyndebourne Festivals and performed oratorios; he was one of the 'sixteen soloists' who performed Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, a tribute to Sir Henry J Wood. His last public performance was only months before his death.

Nash lived for the last thirty years of his life in Petts Wood, where a plaque commemorates his life. Deptford, by contrast, makes nothing of this successful son: ironically, Elgar and Vaughan Williams are remembered in Close names, but there is no Heddle Nash Close to be found.

Nash made a number of recordings, many of which are still available on CD and, as below, on YouTube:

1 comment:

Philip Wilkinson said...

The original 1938 recording of the Serenade to Music, featuring Heddle Nash (and 15 other singers, all stars of the time) and conducted by Sir Henry Wood is still available and makes good listening. Vaughan Williams set the words (which are from The Merchant of Venice) in such a way that each one of the 16 has a short solo, and each solo is specifically tailored to the soloist's voice and has their initials written next to it in the score. Nash's solo consists of the words, 'Look how the floor of heaven is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold'. Fit words for a stellar singer.