David Tall : Life

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Rotary was not an organisation I ever considered joining. It was for business and professionals who have positions of authority. I have no business, I am not a professional, and I certainly have no position of authority. But since I was invited to be a member and joined in 1976, it has been a central focus of my life. What happened was as follows.

In 1975 I was the conductor of the Beauchamp Sinfonietta, the Leamington Spa Opera and a number of other occasional organisations. This was the four hundredth anniversary of the visit of the first Queen Elizabeth to Kenilworth when the Castle was at its most splendid prior to being destroyed by Cromwell. The anniversary was celebrated by a four week festival. I was invited to participate on the festival committee and took the role of music organiser. I arranged two concerts a week, totalling eight in all, making all the arrangements, writing, typing and printing the programmes, organising the press releases,all on a zero budget. After the festival I presented the committee with the profitsfrom the concerts which helped write off the losses from the other activities. Two of the members of the festival committee were Rotarians: Hector Newall and Spud Taylor. They invited me to join Rotary.

My first reaction was that I didn't qualify for membership as my job was not in a position where I had any executive power. However, they pointed to my executive ability at the Festival and my position as the conductor of choirs and orchestras and, after a time of consideration, I joined the Rotary Club of Kenilworth. It was the best decision I made in my adult life.

First and foremost I entered a club consisting of entirely different professions from my own. My previous life had been concerned with two things: academia and music. Both have their own ways of operation. For instance, in academia, I was involved the usual activities of teaching and administration and the main objective was to produce research papers. There was a regular salary each month and one simply did all the tasks as they came along without thought of any financial implications. In the Rotary Club I met businessmen, who knew about the bottom line. In my musical life I had built a position as conductor of the Leamington Spa Opera and the Beauchamp Sinfonietta and these occupied all my time. But Hector Newall gave me a new vision. Rotary, he said, was for getting things up and started and then letting them go on their own. Thus it was always looking for new projects. Hector also did things very steadily, far more slowly than my mad dashing life in music. But at the end of the year I saw the many accomplisments that he had achieved in the club. I realised the speed of my life often created more heat than light, and resolved also to look for new things. It was in this spirit of resolve that I resigned from the Opera Group to spend more time with my growing children. In that first year my project was to make wine, 120 gallons in all, based on grape juice, tinned fruit, parsnips, rosehips, elderflower, elderberry, and so on. Some of it was very good and, at a party where it was the sole drink available, it pleased me to see individuals returning for a second glass of particular wines. At the end of that year, I thought, been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and moved on, never to make wine again. (Actually, I prefer the real stuff!) My next project was to create the Percy Grainger Society. In true Rotary fashion, I decided to get it up and running and then leave it to carry on itself. My new-found freedom from the merry-go-round of operatic societies found its expression in other ways and I began to write assiduously and travel for various academic projects abroad. My experience in Rotary generally changed my whole life.

I have now been a Rotarian for over thirty years. It gives me a role in a group of individuals committed to “service above self” who work together to enjoy each others company and to make a difference. In the early years when I was a practising musician, I put on a couple of big popular concerts to raise money, and since then I have done my bit, as President in 1983/4, as chairman of various club committees, and as general dogsbody participating in all the club activities. Currently I have the role as web-master of the Rotary Club of Kenilworth and its Two Castle Run. You can find more information about this from the web-pages.

The story continues here ...

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