Pamela Hale, The Music Lady of Woking
by her daughter, Juliet Hills

My mother, Pamela Hale, was born on April 3rd, 1920 in Putney and the family later moved to Woking for her father's job. My grandfather, John Hale, was the private architect to Lord Iveagh, Rupert Guinness. John was raised in a British Army family in India and did not come to England until he was 22 years old where he would settle and raise a family.

Pamela Hale. Author’s own image.

Pamela had formal classical piano lessons, receiving her certificates from Adelina DeLara, the last surviving pupil of Clara Schumann. Pamela attended Woking Grammar School for Girls but did not enjoy studying, and by the time she was 17 years old, she was playing in a band. World War II broke out when she was 19, and whenever she could get a playing job, she did, between the Land Army and a few other jobs like demonstrating Electrolux vacuum cleaners. Her next ten years were spent with ENSA and CSE, later playing for several summer seasons at a holiday camp in Hemsby, and sometimes in London venues for former wartime singers she knew. She even played a cinema organ that rose up in the theatre.

In Woking, remarried to my stepfather Dennis in 1954, Pamela stopped taking late night jobs in London. She began to work as a pianist accompanying the Women's League of Health and Beauty, for exercise groups in Surrey towns and villages. She also accompanied my ballet teacher, Jean Brewer, in classes in Woking.

One of Pamela's favourite volunteer jobs was playing at Brookwood Hospital, an asylum for a mixture of residents placed there by families unsympathetic or confused by their unusual temperaments. Some had simply become pregnant out of wedlock, and some had a variety of mental or emotional ailments. There was a wide range of ages and conditions. She became good friends with the chaplain, John Palmer, now retired and living in Cornwall. After twenty years of volunteering at Brookwood, the staff assigned her to be the music therapist, giving her a white coat and badge. She never wore them if she could help it. She did not want anything to set her apart from the needy people she enjoyed talking and listening to, and playing her favourite songs for. Pamela's gifts were astonishing. Her hands seem to have more than the usual number of fingers as she broadened melodies with accidentals, the extra notes that give a jazzy feel to a familiar piece. Her grand player piano at home accompanied me and my father, when each of us sang love songs from sheet music.

Pamela passed away at the age of 75 in 1995. She was known in Woking as the Music Lady, playing as a volunteer at the Westgate Centre, now the Lighthouse centre for local history and art. Pamela and Dennis are buried at Brookwood Cemetery in St. Johns.

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