For SRSB client Joyce Stout, one of those most difficult adjustments when her eyesight deteriorated was having to give up playing music. Joyce, who is 93, had played all her life since the age of seven, when she started piano lessons and discovered what turned out to be a great talent. And it’s a talent which has given Joyce many interesting experiences, as well as a career.
Some of her fondest memories are of being part of the Voluntary Entertainment Service during World War Two. Joyce, who was then Joyce Huteson and lived in Hull, was a pianist for a group of entertainers who went around the army camps, naval and RAF bases entertaining the troops.
“We always wore evening dress. I worked in an office at Hull docks and after work I would go down into the cellar to change. They came round to collect us in an army truck and someone would give me a leg up, sequins and all into the back to go wherever we were going.”
“We played in many different venues. Some very basic and others where we had a proper stage and footlights. At those we had dinner in the officers’ mess. Sometimes we’d be at camps and see the airmen running out to their planes to go and bomb Germany.
“Hull was the worst bombed city in England. We were meant to carry on playing whatever was happening. I don’t remember feeling that I was in any danger when we were performing.
“But during the Blitz everyday I would get up to go to the office and Hull looked like Syria does now.”
Joyce said she would have liked to join up and be part of the wartime entertainment troop ENSA which made a stars of people such as Vera Lynn. But she was in a reserved occupation, so she had to content herself with being part of the volunteer entertainment service instead.
“I used to play solos as well as accompanying other artists. I also played for The Capitols, which stood for Clean Attractive Performers Introducing Topical Original Lively Shows!,” she said.
And about a year after the war ended Joyce received a letter thanking her for all her efforts.” It came out of the blue after the war was over. It was lovely to receive it.” It’s a letter Joyce now treasures.
Joyce studied music for more than a decade and eventually earned the Fellowship of the Victoria College of Music. Later when she came to Sheffield, with her husband, she taught piano, organ and keyboard, as well as working as a pianist.
“I was with the education committee for more than 20 years at different schools. I played for keep fit classes. I also played for the Salvation Army at one point.”
Sadly when Joyce developed macular degeneration her failing eyesight meant she could not see to read music and so she was unable to play. Fortunately a friend had already recorded her playing so she has a collection of CDs to remind her of her many years of enjoyment playing music.