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Memorial concert for inspirational music teacher who set up children's orchestra

PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 March 2012 | UPDATED: 18:17 04 April 2012

The concert was staged in tribute to Margot Fagan, pictured here playing with young musicians

The concert was staged in tribute to Margot Fagan, pictured here playing with young musicians

© Nigel Sutton

A school in Hampstead held a memorial concert in honour of an inspirational former teacher and composer.

Margaret Fagan, known as Margo, who died aged 90 in September, set up a pioneering new children’s orchestra in the 1950s and taught music to generations who still remember and adore her.

More than 100 young musicians, supporters and former pupils crowded into King Alfred School in North End, Golders Green, on March 10 to pay tribute.

Margo taught at the school from 1947 to 1968, where she set up the children’s orchestra, Young Music Makers, in 1958.

It aimed to give north London youngsters the opportunity to play with others at the highest level, something which Margo felt was lacking at the time.

No-one had run orchestras for such young children before at such a high standard with such high expectations, said her daughter, Sue Selwood.

The 65-year-old retired primary school teacher from Cricklewood said of her mother: “She was constantly pushing the boundaries and insisted on the very highest standards.

“She had complete faith that young children could perform at the highest levels if you expected them to.”

The orchestra is now based at William Ellis School in Parliament Hill, and former members have also set up the Da Capo Music Foundation in Golders Green.

Both of these orchestras performed at the memorial concert for Margo, which opened with four songs she had written.

It also included Morris dance music and a performance by The Angel Orchestra, a group which originally started under Margo’s tutelage at Prior Weston Primary School at the Barbican.

Most of the children there had never met Margo but had been learning and playing in organisations which she initiated.

“She has a fantastic legacy,” said her daughter. “Through her work hundreds of children are still meeting every week in thriving orchestras.

“People absolutely adored her. You could see it in the comments at the concert.

“Everyone said it was a fitting tribute as she would have loved the liveliness of it all and to see that what she started is still alive.”

Margo lived in Fitzjohn’s Avenue in Hampstead in the 1950s and then moved to Archway, where she lived until she died in September, having suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

She was born in Liverpool, went to school in Guildford, trained as a teacher in Chelsea and had her first teaching job as a PE teacher at King Alfred School.

However, it was as music teacher at Prior Weston Primary from 1968 to 1987 where she found her true vocation.

There, she “absolutely thrived” and the teaching role “fitted her like a glove”, according to Mrs Selwood.

“She was so creative and imaginative, she loved bringing in pictures and stories and words to bring the music to life and make it enjoyable.”

Her enthusiasm has rubbed off on generations of students who remembered her at the concert as well as her son Hugh, who is a professional cellist, and daughter Sue who has taught the recorder for decades.

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