Leader: Tom Field
Conductor: Maurice Powell
Patron: Charles Guard
Her musical career began in the age of Gilbert and Sullivan, and ended shortly after the appearance of Eric Coates’ Dambusters March, in other words, from the beginnings to the heyday of the genre we generally call British Light Music. She was born in the mining village of Laxey on the East coast of the Isle of Man, the daughter of Egbert Rydings, the founder of the St George’s Woollen Mill, and an amateur violinist, singer, choir conductor and man of letters. An exceptionally talented young violinist, she was a pupil of both Harry and Haydn Wood, and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1903 to study with Achille Rivarde, and extended her scholarship for a year to study with Cesar Thomson in Brussels. In 1912 she formed her own piano trio, The Kathleen Rydings Trio, and was engaged by a large department store in fashionable Eastbourne for ten years, to provide twice-daily concerts in their luxurious and genteel cafeteria.
She returned to the Island after World War I with her trio, and as the Strand Trio, was resident at the Strand Cinema and the Picture House in Douglas during the last decade of the ‘silent’ film era. In 1930, she was appointed conductor of the Manx Amateur Orchestral Society, a post she held for twenty-five years, and embarked on a career as one of the best-known and influential violin teachers in the Island’s history. The late Alan Pickard was among her pupils. The Kathleen Rydings Trio featured in countless musical events both large and small throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and Kathleen herself was a familiar, well-loved and highly respected figure at the annual Manx Music Festivals, directing her ensemble of pupils, the Avondale Strings. Essentially a shy and retiring person, she eschewed a career as a concert violinist, and returned to her roots. Her subsequent career may have less illustrious than some of her contemporaries, but Kathleen Rydings was a fine musician, and deserves to be remembered as a stalwart of the Island’s musical life.
A Very Gifted Manx Lady is published by Wibble Publishing, and is available from Manx Museum, Douglas; House of Mannanan, Peel; Lexicon, Douglas; St Paul’s Bookshop, Ramsey; The Bridge Bookshop, Port Erin; Laxey Woollen Mill or from the author at email@example.com. price £8.99.
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Forthcoming this summer:
A Very Gifted Manx Lady
The Life of Kathleen Rydings
Kathleen Rydings’ long association with the Manx Amateur Orchestral Society featured in ENCORE! The Story of the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra (Maurice Powell, 2013), but it became clear during the preparation of that book, that her life demanded an in-depth investigation and a more fitting and personal tribute.
Praise for ENCORE! ‘. . . this book will be keenly taken up local music-lovers but will be of interest to musicologists generally as a well-researched tribute to those who over the years have served the Isle of Man’s cultural heritage so unsparingly’. The Light Music Society Magazine, Winter, 2013.