On Monday, my first day back in England from the other side of the world, I attended the funeral of Pamela Cook, creator and director of Cantamus Girls Choir. The funeral was held in Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire - the day warm and sultry, the trees in the churchyard at their most magnificent. The
beautiful Norman minster was packed – so many of Pam’s girls past and present, as well as parents and friends. I’ve never attended any church service where the congregation sang so full-heartedly – and so well.
We used to joke that there must be something in the water in Mansfield that could produce a choir of girls who sang like angels. But we were well aware that in truth it was the remarkable wisdom, talent, determination and hard work of Pamela, and the people she inspired to work alongside her over forty five years.
That she knew how to train voices to perfection was evident in the results she achieved – not only the many awards won by the choir, but also the fact that so many young girls went on to further training in the most
prestigious music colleges in the country. She gave generations of young girls the framework for a whole way of life. I used to slip into the end of rehearsals after working with individual girls, and delight in watching her work. She was rigorous and impeccable in her approach. There were no concessions and no excuses. She knew that art, that anything worthwhile, is hard won – only achieved through intense physical and mental effort. Riddled with arthritis she continued to work through her pain, and demanded that the girls likewise gave everything in the hours they worked with her – or leave. In a short time they knew not only how to sing, but how to concentrate, apply correction, focus; they gained insight into a huge range of music, and into the many elements of performance, stillness, focus – and so much more.
On a personal level I so appreciated her complete trust in me as a Pilates teacher, and I enjoyed our conversations about the most talented of her girls – the ones I worked with on posture and movement. With their deep understanding of how to work and their determination, they made progress so
quickly I could see results within two sessions.
I am so glad to have met Pamela and to have worked for her the last three years of her life. She was the most extraordinary, inspiring, and beautiful woman. Listening now to a recording of the girls singing I feel a
mixture of sadness and happiness, and huge gratitude.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.