LILIAN MARY GASKELL (1894-1977)
Born: Twickenham (England), April 26 1894 - Died: (England), July 04 1977
LILIAN MARY GASKELL, FRCM, was the first of three musical sisters born to the chief clerk of Bow Street Magistrates' Court. An elder brother serving in the Royal Flying Corps was shot down and killed during the First World War. She was educated at St Paul's Girl's School (1906-1909) in Hammersmith in London where Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was Director of Music (1905-1934) and where she studied the piano under Marguerite Valentine King. She went to the Royal Academy of Music on a scholarship in January 1910 and studied the piano under Evelyn Howard-Jones (1877-1951) and the viola with Rowsby Woof (1883-1943), she won the Manns Memorial Prize in 1913 and in piano progressed through the bronze and silver medals to the Certificate of Merit in the annual exams. She finally left the Royal Academy of Music in July 1914.
She taught at various schools, and it is a measure of her gifts and achievements in those early years that Howard-Jones handed his pupils over to her at the Royal College of Music in May 1917 and at Reading University, when he served in the Navy during World War I, and she was then invited by Sir Hugh Allen to become a permanent member of the teaching staff. Later Howard-Jones decided to give up teaching and devote his time to the concert platform.
Lilian Gaskell had a kind and gentle manner with sudden unexpected flashes of wit. Her unfailing interest in young musicians was shown not only in her work with her own pupils but in the many hours she spent in the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music listening with interest, judging competitions, and giving valuable suggestions and advice. Her wide knowledge of music of all kinds and her enquiring, eager mind, made her companionship a treasured part of the life of her friends. In particular, her gift for apt quotations was a joy, "All is gas and gaiters" was a favourite, which gave one an impression of quiet satisfaction, and "I come from haunts of coot and hern" was her greeting when making enquiries about two of her pupils named Coote and Hearn.
At the commencement of her musical career she gave solo recitals and played a great deal of chamber music. At one concert she, Doris Bates and Ambrose Gauntlett played Ravel's Piano Trio in A minor, then unfamiliar to the public, in the presence of the composer. In 1934 the composer William Alwyn (1905-1985) wrote a Sonata for Oboe and Piano for her and her sister, Helen, which they performed at a New Music Society concert at the Royal Academy. The sonata, however, was not published for 62 years. She also gave lectures on piano teaching to the students of the GTC which was the precurser of the GRSM course, and later she became an examiner with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
During World War II she continued to teach at the Royal College of Music and was reported on one occasion as having taken up a position with her pupil under the grand piano during the passing of a doodle-bug V1 bomb and immediately after resuming the lesson. One can visualize her taking this in her stride without showing excitement or fear.
She was elected a FRCM in 1964, the year of her retirement from the Royal College of Music at the age of 70. She retired as a full-time member of staff from Reading University in 1967 at the age of 73, but continued on a part-time basis thereafter.
Here was a musician of distinction, a human being with gifts of understanding, humour, and an eager interest in human beings and the world we live in. Her unselfish and ready help to anyone in need or trouble was as unfailing as it was unobtrusive, and always one finds oneself remembering her with happiness and thinking 'Small is good'.
Her sister Helen Gaskell (January 14 1906 - October 07 2002) followed Lilian to St Paul' Girl's School (1919-1924) and the Royal Academy of Music (1925-1929) and joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1934 as oboe and cor anglais.
I would very much like to hear from anyone who may have a photograph of Lilian Mary Gaskell as I have been unable to locate one of her.