A Musical Legend Visits Willesley

Wednesday 26th August 2009

Anne Collis

Whilst searching for her childhood on the web Anne Collis, Managing & Artistic Director of the National Symphony Orchestra came across the website for Captain Frank & immediately made contact with the author, Maurice Abney-Hastings. The NSO is Britain’s principal independent free-lance orchestra, & as well as playing more traditional classics currently with such popular artists as Katherine Jenkins & Russell Watson they have also worked with such stars as Sir Cliff Richard, Suggs & even on the Abba Musical Tour!

This photograph (above right) taken during her visit was taken outside the back gate of Willesley Hall leading to the stable block which Anne remembered well.

She showed Maurice a childhood photograph of herself with her father, the Vicar of Measham & Willesley outside the church at Willesley Hall. The Reverend Leonard Sidney Collis was a popular vicar between 1948–1953 & it was here that Anne had some of her earliest memories. A delighted Maurice Abney-Hastings arranged to meet her at the Church situated in the Scout Camp at Willesley wood, & the ever helpful warden, Richard Liddington also came along. To everyones delight a long time parishioner, Shiela Winfieldale heard of the visit & remembering both the Vicar & his little daughter decided to renew a friendship after more than half a century.

Anne Collis metting Mr & Mrs Winfiedale

The photograph to the left shows Mr & Mrs Winfieldale with Anne, Maurice & Richard Liddington scouring many photograph albums which had been dusted off! An early treat was that of the now famous composer & musician winning the second prize at a Coronation Day fancy dress competition dressed as a carton of VIM!! We wonder if this could be displayed at an NSO Concert?

Anne Collis with Maurice

Anne went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, & was later to be an Assistant Professor there for 12 years, but perhaps her greatest claim was that of being the first female percussionist playing with most orchestras, ballet groups & opera companies over a period of time. Her probably greatest composition was the Historia del Torero which was performed first in 1994.

This final photograph is of her with Maurice Abney-Hastings by the tomb of Sir Charles Abney Hastings in the Church which brought back so many happy memories.

Those who met her were spellbound by such an attractive, cultured & charming lady, & it is hoped that she will now visit this corner of Leicestershire on a regular basis.

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