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May Sabeston Walker

May Sabeston Walker was born around 1910. She was congenitally blind and so first attended the Royal National College for the Blind from 1921 to 1928. But her musical talent was exceptional that she was allowed to join the Royal Academy of Music afterwards. May Sabeston Walker studied mainly singing under Astra Desmond and Evelyn Langston and composition under Benjamin Dale. She was an outstanding student and received several awards during her time at the Royal Academy of Music. Among them were the Dove Prize for the most distinguished student in 1935, furthermore the Isabel Jay Gold Medal, the Rutson Memorial Prize, the Anne E. Lloyd Exhibitioner (all for singing) as well as the Cuthbert Nunn Prize, and a Josephine Troup Scholarship (both for composition). May Sabeston Walker was a common participant as singer and as composer in the Royal Academy of Music Fortnightly and Students' Chamber Concerts in the years until her graduation in 1936. At that time May Sabeston Walker was already managed by the renowned artist agency "Ibbs & Tillett" who also represented Fritz Kreisler or Sergei Rachmaninov. But a great career as a soprano wasn't granted to her. After her graduation May Sabeston Walker worked as a singing teacher at different music and girls schools and gave private lessons. It is unknown when May Sabeston Walker passed away.


May Sabeston Walker was also a composer and mainly active during her student years. Some of her songs were published by Augener in the early 1930s. The two songs "Everybody sang" and Peace" received a remarkable review in the Monthly Musical Record in May 1936:


„The free lyricism of these soprano songs makes them akin in spirit to many of Roger Quilter's settings. Technically, however, they are more improvisatory, and evince a love for pure vocal sound divorced from words. This instinct for colour overlaps into the piano parts, which are highly decorative.“


From her documents I compiled a work list:


songs for voice and piano:

Landscape (on words by David Morton)
Goldenhair (on words by James Joyce)
The Eyes (on words by Ezra Pound)
The Story Tellers (on words by Mark van Doren)
Everyone sang (on words by Siegfried Sassoon)
Peace (on words by Sara Teasdale)
Slumber Song (on words by Siegfried Sassoon)
Weathers (on words by Thomas Hardy)
Innesfree (on words by W.B. Yeats)
Not that April has begun (on words by Edward Davison)
The Bridge (on words by John Gawsworth)
Lullaby (on words by Sturge Moore)
A Wish (on words by W. Henley)
The Moon of Roses (on words by W. Henley)
Forester's song (on words by A. E. Coppard)
Three country songs (on words by Alex Carlisle)


vocal music:

Trio for female voices with harp „Kingcups“
Lalulaby, for chorus
He came all so still, chorus
No more than a manger, chorus


chamber music:

Violin sonata in F sharp minor
String quartet
Variations on a Normandy Folk-song, for piano
Caprice for piano
Prelude for piano



In my possession is a large archive of documents from the estate of May Sabeston Walker. That includes the original certificates for her prizes at the Royal Academy of Music, programs of many of her concerts from the 1930s, letters of reference from the heads of her later schools and the handwritten manuscripts of here "Three country songs".

The manuscripts are obviously not in the hand of May Sabeston Walker. I don't know how she penned down music, but in this case someone must had written down the music for her into a normal music manuscript. The "Three country songs" were published by Augener in 1949 and consist of the songs 1. "Old Neddy", 2. "Cluck! Cluck!" and 3. "Nightingale in the darkness" on words by Alex Carlisle. My manuscript doesn't match completely to the published version: There is also the song "Old Neddy" but still titled "Gee-up! Whoa!", the song "Cluck! Cluck!" and a third song "I did not know" which is not identical to "Nightingale in the darkness".


For this reason and due to the fact that music by May Sabeston Walker is hard to find nowadays I publish here the previously unknown song "I did not know, for voice and piano":

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© Tobias Broeker