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A Diss mystery: Who was Miss Hartie Pullen?

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A performance by the children of Roydon Primary School at a festival of remembrance service in Diss hid a musical mystery.

NOTE PERFECT: Roydon Primary School pupils are pictured with choir lead Tracey Willer.
NOTE PERFECT: Roydon Primary School pupils are pictured with choir lead Tracey Willer.

The children rousingly performed Our Country’s Call, a patriotic song composed more than a century ago – and forgotten for almost as long.

But a Diss Express report from 1914 reveals a local connection to the unfamiliar song – and set a Diss bandmaster on an internet search to discover more.

The Express cutting was turned up by Andrew Rackham, who was behind many of the acts of remembrance in Diss at this year’s Armistice commemorations.

According to the report, a special YMCA musical programme included the “introduction of a new patriotic song entitled Our Country’s Call, the words and music being compiled by Miss Hartie Pullen, of Diss...”

The cutting found its way to Iain Sturgeon, the Diss Salvation Army bandmaster, and, after inquiries among fellow bandmasters all over the UK, he discovered the only copy of the unpublished song appeared to be in the music library at the North East of Scotland Music School.

A copy was emailed to Diss and the task began of arranging a piano score into a version suitable for a brass band, said Mr Sturgeon, who, in a service career, played for eight years in the band of the Life Guards and also took part in the national Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall.

“One of the most interesting parts of the whole event was that we and the children were going to perform the piece without any rehearsal together,” he said.

“As a band, we’d played through the piece I’d arranged a couple of times so it wasn’t alien to us, and the same could be said for the school as they’d sung it through a few times with a piano. But performing together was going to be a step into the unknown.

“But I can honestly say that it went down really well and, mostly I’d say, this was down to the efforts on the night of the children.

“Yes, the band played well, as they should do, having age and experience on their side, but the children were performing a song in public for the first time with a live band – and they sang their hearts out.

“Words could be heard, smiles were on faces and the end result was pride in their performance.”

Roydon Primary School headteacher Sarah Bradford said the choir had worked incredibly hard under the direction of Tracey Willer.

“The Hartie Pullen song was challenging because they needed to understand the meaning of the words before they could sing with the proper expression,” she said.

“We are very proud of the confidence the children showed in their performance and it has been wonderful to have their efforts recognised in the many positive comments we have received from members of the public.”

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