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CPH News - Autumn Term 2010

The Sington Collection

 Sepia photograph of EC Sington c.1930In autumn 2009, the Centre for Performance History received a substantial collection of concert programmes belonging to Edward Claude Sington. Although he was not a musician, the sheer scale of the collection – 1,720 items in total – bore testimony to a lifelong passion for music, and the chronological succession of the programmes also began to reveal the story of Edward Sington’s life. His family has been kind enough to provide us with some information about him, which makes the nature and scope of the collection all the more remarkable.

Edward Claude Sington was born in Cheshire in 1892, and attended Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied law (there are programmes from both venues amongst the collection). During the First World War, he served with the Seventh Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers for the entire duration of hostilities. When he was evacuated to Egypt from the Dardanelles in 1915, he even managed to attend two concerts in Cairo! Following the Armistice in 1918, he was called to the Bar and practised law until the commencement of the Second World War, when he rejoined his regiment. He was in France in May 1940, at the time of the Dunkirk evacuations, during which he marched his company southwest through France to bring his troops safely back to Britain. During these wartime years, whenever he was in London, he was a dedicated attendee of the concert series launched by Myra Hess at the National Gallery, and attended 138 such recitals between October 1939 and January 1946 (in some cases the programmes are hand-written).

EC Sington in uniform c.1940Following the war, he acted as part of the British Legal team at the Nuremberg trials, and then returned to the Bar and became a legal advisor to the Board of Trade. In 1954 he retired from legal service, and was awarded the O.B.E. In 1959 he began work as a volunteer in the music department of the British Museum Library (now the British Library), where he was responsible for cataloguing a substantial amount of vocal music from the early 1900s that had previously been unavailable to scholars. Over sixteen years of volunteer work, he catalogued and prepared for binding some 62,254 pieces of music. He died in 1976, aged 84, and left an extraordinary legacy not only at the British Library, but in the form of his concert programme collection – an assortment of around 1,600 British programmes, and others from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Monaco, Egypt, Austria and Sweden. We are extremely grateful to his son, Peter Sington, for donating the collection to the RCM, and for providing us with biographical information, and several photographs, of his father. The complete list of Sington concert programmes can be viewed here.


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