Baker, James

Letter
Date:
February 3, 1941
To:
Mom
From:
Jim
February 3rd, 1941

Dear Mom,

I have just got back from a trip up to London where I spent Saturday night and all day Sunday. I just got out of hospital on Saturday morning. I had been in for diarrhea and stomach flu. I was moping around the house wondering what to do with myself when suddenly the idea strikes me to go to London. So I hopped aboard a bus and rode to Caterham where I caught the first train into London. I arrived at Charing Cross at 10.30 and went to a dance at the Paramount. I had a good time too. The next morning I went down to the American Eagle Club and had quite a time talking to a couple of boys whom I met last summer. Then after awhile I got talking to the woman who is in charge of the Club and during the course of our conversation, I casually mentioned that I would like to go to the Queen's Hall and hear the London Philharmonic Concert. So she introduced me to her son who is a Frenchman - she's American. His name is Jean Louis and he is extremely interesting. He is a first class engineer in one of the aeroplane factories over here. Has been six years and is about 25 years old. He was going to the concert too, so we decided to go together. I am certainly glad now that I went for the music absolutely enthralled me! It was the first time I had ever seen an actual Philharmonic Society Concert and it was so very interesting.

They played Elgard's "Enigma" with 14 variations, Tchaikovsky's "5th Symphony", Chopin's "Etude in E flat Minor" and another which I cannot remember the name of. They had as guest soloist - Ina somebody or other. He was Jewish - short, stout, with a terrible mop of hair. He was extremely funny too, for he kept on trying to direct the orchestra behind the leader's back. And after it was all over and he had been recalled 3 times by the enthusiastic audience, he began to shake hands with everyone in the orchestra. O, he was funny!

The leader was Malcolm Sergeant. I think he is supposed to be one of London's most famous leaders and he certainly seemed to know his business. It must be terribly difficult to conduct an orchestra. I never noticed before what a terrible amount of work he does. He conducted without a score and he knew just what instrument was coming in, when it was to come in, how loud it was to play, and he showed all this with his hands. How impressive a master's hand are! I was fascinated and couldn't take my eyes off him.

The orchestra was very much smaller than it used to be because so many of the men have joined up. As it was, the 8th violin, the 2nd flute, the 1st bassoon and the 4th bass viol were in uniform. There were 24 violinists, 9 cellists, 7 violists, 9 bass violists, 3 trumpets, 3 flutists, 4 French Horns, 3 bassoons and 4 clarinets. There were also 4 men in the tympanic section, 1 kettle drum, 1 base drum, 1 on the tympany drums and 1 for incidental effects. There was also one piece in which the theatre pipe organ was used for about 4 bars. And of course the piano soloist. So altogether it was a 75 piece orchestra.

The hall was packed - absolutely. I never saw so people in one place since coming to England: except at a football game. There must have been at least 5000 people there! I think the reason for this was that London has been free of raids for 10 days now and also because of the price. The great majority of the seats are 2/6 and 5/ (65 cents and $1.25). I sat in a 2/6 seat and I don't think there was a better seat in the whole house, for I heard every note of music and I saw everything.

I am going to try to go to every concert from now on. They are held every Sunday afternoon at 2.30 and I can go up to London for 2/6 return from here. Just think of that; 65 cents return from here to London - nearly 80 miles! And back home it would cost near $3.00. Transportation is certainly cheap over here - isn't it?

I got a letter the other day from Mr. Davies - my old school teacher. You can guess how delighted I was. I wrote back right away. He has joined an Officer's Cadet Corp. and is busy training for his lieutenancy. Of course he is still carrying on with his job as chemist in the Dept. of Fisheries: so is quite busy.

I got the newspapers - thank you. Please keep sending them as I am very interested in them. I'm glad you got my parcel OK. I was afraid it had gone down. Blake sent me a Xmas parcel too but I am afraid it went down as I haven't received it yet. It's getting pretty late now. The last mail I got was dated Dec. 24th, so there is still hope.

I wonder if at some time in the future you could send Mrs. Barnard - my landlady, some sugar, tea and butter... she has been wonderfully good to me and I know it would please her to think that someone thought of her. Her youngest and eldest sons have been called up next March and I am afraid she will be terribly lonely. Her favourite son - Fred, has joined up in the artillery and is stationed in Wales so she doesn't get to see him very often. But his wife's home is right near where he is stationed so as she says "At least I know he's in good hands!" Well - Happy Birthday Mom! By the time you read this, I am afraid it will be past, but you will know that I was thinking of you anyway. Cheerio!

Love to all,

Jim


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