Arthur Robson is looking back on a rich, rewarding and successful career at the heart of musical education in the city of Chichester.
He has taken voluntary severance after 27 years at the University of Chichester and its predecessor incarnations – and nine years before that at the girls high school.Arthur has stepped down as the university’s director of choral studies.
“I went grey at the age of 27 teaching in very tricky schools in Sheffield. They were tough schools, but I was determined, and then I was poached by one of the head teachers at the girls high school in Chichester. She got somebody to ask me if I would be interested in working there. I came down for the interview and I walked around the town in about 20 minutes. It was so different and civilised and such a tight-knit community.” After nine years, he saw that Bishop Otter, as it then was, was advertising for someone to come in and teach the teachers: I very much enjoyed working with the students and watching them teach and helping them in the right direction. I was teaching students who were learning how to teach music, and I was also working with all the primary-school teachers in the college, teaching them how to teach class-room music.”
When regulations changed and his teaching hours were reduced, Arthur was appointed senior lecturer in music. It was a time of rapid change. The West Sussex Institute of Higher Education became the Chichester Institute of Education and then University College Chichester as it moved towards the full university status is enjoys now. Arthur served as director of choral studies for more than 20 years: “I enjoyed creating something that had international acclaim because of the standards of choral singing. We would go on tour. We were invited to festivals. We went all over the place, and thousands of students enjoyed being part of our choirs.”
With all the changes, so the courses expanded, with a big increase in music in joint honours with other subjects: “The whole thing mushroomed. I started new courses. I started the music arranging courses. I wrote the courses. I also started the music theory courses and the oral skills and development. I believe that musicians should be able to listen.”
The result is that almost everywhere they go, Arthur and his wife Polly run into past students – students who have subsequently gone into education or are now singing professionally.
During his time, Arthur also ran the West Sussex Boys Choir for 14 years from 1983. He is also the founder of the Chichester Chorale which offers its Christmas concert on Saturday, December 8 at 7.30pm at St George’s, Cleveland Road.