Tributes paid to a lover of music and pioneer of classical recitals in Swineshead

Bettina Houlder, founder of the Swineshead-based Windmill Studio Concert series, with Japanese pianist Haruko Seki.  Photo supplied.
Bettina Houlder, founder of the Swineshead-based Windmill Studio Concert series, with Japanese pianist Haruko Seki. Photo supplied.
  • Memories of a ‘lovely lady’ with a great gift
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Warm tributes have been paid to a former Spalding music teacher who went on to establish a long-running series of classical music concerts in Swineshead.

Bettina Houlder, who founded the Windmill Music Studio concert programme in March 1966, passed away on Sunday, May 14, aged 89.

Windmill Lodge and Studio, next to her home in Swineshead, was a masterstroke of Bettina’s and it enabled her to project her ambition to bring live performances to the rural community

David Burgin, Friend of Bettina Houlder’s living in Sheffield

Miss Houlder, who was born in Swineshead, was well-known for her passionate love of music which she passed on to a generation of students at the former Gleed Girls’ Technology College, now part of Spalding Academy.

In an interview with our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian, in February 2016, Miss Houlder said: “I wanted to take some of my students to see the Halle Orchestra playing in Sheffield.

“But they couldn’t afford to go so I thought that if I could get some musicians to play at the school in the afternoon, I could then open it up to the public at night.

“I asked the headmistress at the time if I could do it and she was right behind me with the idea.”

Before teaching, Miss Houlder studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and then the Royal Academy of Music, London, where she graduated from in 1951. Her ambition of a career as a concert pianist were thwarted due to an illness in her family and she eventually became a music teacher.

David Burgin, a friend of Miss Houlder’s who now lives in Sheffield, said: “There can be few who equalled Bettina’s enthusiasm and energy in the desire to spread her love of music.

“Besides her enthusiasm to introduce music to the pupils at her school, Bettina also instigated the foundation of the Gleed Girls Music Society which brought many world-famous performers to Spalding and the wider district.

“Bettina’s desire to bring such performances to the rural fenland was continued into her retirement (in 1988) with the designing and building of Windmill Lodge and Studio, next to her home in Swineshead.

“The whole concept was a masterstroke of Bettina’s and it enabled her to project her ambition to bring live performances to the rural community.”

Miss Houlder was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music for services to music education in 2000 and continued to organise concerts for the Windmill Music Studio series until last year.

Mr Burgin said: “Bettina considered music to be valuable to all and her life has been a dedication to this bjective.

“Her past students will hold a sense of indebtednesss to Bettina for her concise teaching and her outstanding wish was that the Windmill Music Studio concerts should continue as her principal legacy.”

Another to pay tribute to Bettina Houlder was Macau-born pianist Dr Vivian Choi who performed regularly in the Windmill Studio Concert series.

Dr Choi, who now lives in Cambridge, said: “I am blessed to have been part of the Windmill Studio Concerts and Bettina’s vision in which she was tireless until the last moments of her life.

“I have played, I believe, four or five concerts in the series, including perhaps the last one in April and, on every visit, I have been met with Bettina’s hospitality.

“She and her team would ensure that I was fed, looked after and that the event would go smoothly.

“As a musician, I was most touched by the exceptional warmth and appreciation of the audience, along with the personal and heartfelt messages after the recitals.

“I sincerely hope that Bettina’s spirit of bringing music lovers and musicians together can continue in Swineshead in the future.”

Meanwhile, French flute player Luce Zurita, part of The Globe Ensemble that played at the Windmill Studio Concerts’ 50th anniversary recital in March 2016, said: “I was sorry to hear the sad news about Bettina as I have great memories of the Windmill Studio Concert we did last year.”

Diana Street, who worked with Miss Houlder in organising the concerts said: “She was a lovely lady who brought such wonderful music to Lincolnshire.