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Jane Farge has photographic memory for anything musical

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To honour Norman: opera singer and Bermuda School of Music teacher Jane Farge will present two recitals, on May 26 and June 2 at 5pm, at the Bermuda School Music in the Berkeley Culture Centre at 23 Berkeley Road, Pembroke (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Jane Farge’s parents noticed she had a gift for music when she was a toddler. “I would sing to myself,” Mrs Farge remembered. “My parents thought gee, this child has some voice for a two-year-old.”

Growing up in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, an hour east of London, her parents did not have much money.

“My mother was a stay at home mother,” Mrs Farge said. “My father was a telephone engineer. He would have to climb up telephone poles to do repairs, sometimes in severe weather.”

Mrs Farge attended the rough neighbourhood school around the corner.

“I wasn’t interested in academics,” she said. “I’m not stupid; I’m just wired differently.”

The teachers were mean, and the other students bullied her. “I still have post-traumatic stress syndrome from the experience,” she said.

Today, she would probably be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“They did not have those labels in those days,” she said. “I know that I do not learn like anybody else.”

However, when it came to learning anything involving music, her memory is phenomenal. “It is almost photographic,” she said. “I also learn a lot by hearing.”

Her bright spot was music. She loved to sing and perform.

When she was nine, one of her teachers agreed to give her piano lessons for free.

“My mother was a very good cook,” Mrs Farge said. “I would often be sent to the lesson with a shepherd’s pie for the teacher.”

At 13, she won a scholarship to take voice and piano lessons in the Royal College of Music’s junior department in London.

“I don’t know how my parents scraped together the fare, but every week my father and I would go to London on the train,” she said. “While I took classes, my father would visit museums or galleries. He loved science.”

At the Royal College of Music she discovered opera.

“The librarians would have free tickets to all kinds of concerts happening in the Royal Festival Hall in London,” she said. “I went to everything, even a Pink Floyd concert. I quite enjoyed it.”

It was at a concert by famed American opera singer Jessye Norman that she discovered opera. She fell in love with it.

It was also at the prestigious music school that a teacher noticed she had emotional issues and arranged for her to be seen by a specialist.

However, it was not until her twenties, that doctors diagnosed bipolar disorder.

At age 18, she was awarded a full scholarship to study full time at the Royal College of Music.

After graduation the contralto performed in the United Kingdom, France, United States, Germany, Italy and Bermuda and has also had much experience in piano accompanying.

She arrived in Bermuda in 1988. She taught voice and piano privately, until she joined the staff of the Bermuda School of Music in 2012 as a voice and piano instructor.

Later this month, she will be holding two recitals at the Bermuda School of Music to raise money for student bursaries. She will be accompanied by Andrea Hodson Patton on piano, and Alison Black on violin.

The performances are being held in memory of her friend and colleague Norman Brown, who died in March.

“Norman was a very important figure in the local music scene,” Mrs Farge said. “He was an organist, a pianist, choir director, teacher, amazing piano tuner, and he actually made violins and violas and cellos. He fixed all stringed instruments and pianos.”

Mrs Farge called him a “gentle giant”.

“I have been a good friend with him and his wife, Anne, since I first came to Bermuda, 36 years ago,” she said.

• The recitals will be on May 26 and June 2 at 5pm at the Bermuda School Music in the Berkeley Culture Centre at 23 Berkeley Road, Pembroke. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children and senior citizens, available at Music Box on Reid Street, the Bermuda Bookstore on Queen Street, or by calling 296-5100

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Published May 15, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 16, 2024 at 8:30 am)

Jane Farge has photographic memory for anything musical

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