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Meet north Norfolk's musical dynamo

PUBLISHED: 10:27 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 10:27 13 July 2010

"Musical dynamo" Angela Dugdale.

Face to Face with priest and "musical dynamo" Rev Angela Dugdale MBE, who has worked tirelessly to spread joy through song for more than 55 years.

Berkshire-born Angela's life very nearly took a different turn when, while at boarding school, an untreated ear infection left her completely deaf.

Face to Face with priest and "musical dynamo" Rev Angela Dugdale MBE, who has worked tirelessly to spread joy through song for more than 55 years.

Berkshire-born Angela's life very nearly took a different turn when, while at boarding school, an untreated ear infection left her completely deaf.

After a year without sound, during which time she learned to lip read, Angela's hearing returned. She went on to fulfil her childhood dream when she won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and, on graduating, moved to Norwich to take up the post of head of music at the Blyth School.

In 1958, she joined a chamber choir made up of a group of friends as conductor. The group became the Broadland Singers and, under Angela's leadership, went on to gain many accolades, including representing England in the BBC's Let the People Sing competition and in a European Common Market tour of France, Belgium and Holland.

The group, which disbanded in 1989, made numerous recordings, performed all over Europe and staged around 20 charity concerts a year in Norfolk.

They were regularly heard on TV and radio, with Angela also made the subject of a TV documentary entitled The Musical Dynamo.

Concerned that children of homeless families were often taken into care, in 1968 Angela attended a meeting about housing issues in Norwich.

The following year, the Umbrella Housing Group was set up, with Angela as its first chairman. Over the years, the group has gone from strength to strength and today has 36 accommodation units in the Norwich area, providing short-term housing and support for single parent families in times of crisis.

After moving to Beck House, Kelling, with husband Keith - a chartered accountant and magistrate - 30 years ago, Angela came up with the idea of converting a dilapidated 18th Century grain barn next to her home into a music venue.

Lighting and heating were installed, the leaking roof was repaired and a two-foot-high pile of rubble covering the floor was shifted to one end of the barn and concreted over to make a stage.

As well as being home to the 90-strong Glaven Ladies' Choir, which Angela founded, Beck House barn hosted music summer schools for up to 90 children from all over the country.

The Beck House Barn Trust was formed and the 250-seat venue is now used for parish council meetings, music days, music and drama performances by local schools concerts, and even as a polling station.

Angela was awarded an honorary degree for services to music in the region by the University of East Anglia in 1988 and, the following year, she was appointed head of singing at Gresham's School, Holt, where she was later made director of music.

After retiring from Gresham's, Angela took Holy Orders and, since 1998, she has been non stipendiary assistant curate of the Weybourne group of parishes.

Now aged 77, Angela, who was made MBE in 2006, juggles playing the organ and taking services at six local churches with conducting, carrying out her duties as a deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk and spending time with her three children and eight grandchildren - all of whom are musical.

She will be celebrating singing or performing Bach for 60 years on the trot at a Good Friday concert at St Nicholas Church, Salthouse, when she will be conducting the Kelling Consort and Orchestra performing Mass in B Minor.

Proceeds will go to the Friends of Salthouse Church and tickets, priced £10, are available on the door, or in advance from Holt Computers, Market Place, Holt.

What is the best thing about your job?

Just wanting to say 'thank you' all the time because I've been so fortunate - and I can do that best through music and church services.

And the worst?

If you are sensitive to joy, then you are also sensitive to sadness, but it is a privilege to be let in to people's lives at both their happiest and their most grief-stricken times.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

I'd have to say St Nicholas Church, Salthouse, because it is there that I realised that something should be done to bring churches and villages together, and it's where I eventually decided to become a priest.

What is the one thing you would change about north Norfolk?

I think it is the most wonderful place, although it can be difficult for people who don't drive, or who live alone.

What is the one thing you would change about yourself?

I'm extremely contented, so nothing! However, I would like to change a lot of things for other people who need help.

Whom do you most admire?

My husband Keith. We have been married for 53 years and he is the most gentle and wise person I know. He's a real Norfolk man with a terrific sense of fun and humour.

Who or what is the love of your life?

Keith, no question!

What has been your greatest achievement?

Nothing I have done has been my achievement as there have always been other people involved - and I wouldn't have done anything without Keith!

And your proudest moment?

Being allowed to write the music for my ordination service and hearing it sung at Norwich Cathedral.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

I read so many books, so my favourite is always the one I'm reading at that moment, but I am particularly fond of George Herbert's poetry. On television, I enjoy watching the news or Question Time and I have very happy memories of taking my children to see the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Assembly House in Norwich.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good mother and grandmother. I'd like it too if people had caught the infection of joy in words and music from me.


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