My Fair Lady

Village Voices are currently working on a medley of songs from the musical My Fair Lady. You may recall that in My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins takes an ordinary Cockney girl, Eliza Dolittle, under his wing in order to teach her to speak properly and to behave as a young lady should, so that she could take her place in polite society. Professor Higgins was not entirely successful. You may recall that in all the excitement at the Ascot Races, she yells at the horse on which she had placed a bet, “Move your blooming arse!”

My Fair Lady has a Warwick connection. Professor Higgins is based on the life of a man called Sabine Baring Gould who was a boy at Warwick School, where he was a boarder, but not for very long. Sabine was ordained in the Church of England, but he was also interested in archaeology and he was an avid collector of folk songs and folk stories. He was a prolific writer with over one thousand publications and had an interest in the occult. He also wrote a number of hymns. Some of which are still well known. The most famous of these is Onward! Christian Soldiers and it is his translation we sing at Christmas, in the carol, The Angel Gabriel.

After reading Theology at Cambridge Baring Gould worked as curate at Horbury near Wakefield where he met Grace Taylor, who became his wife and mother to his many children. Grace was an ordinary mill girl, the Yorkshire equivalent of Eliza Dolittle. Baring Gould made it his mission in life to educate her so that she could take her place in polite society.

Baring Gould’s friend, the playwright George Bernard Shaw, witnessed the marriage and the relationship between Grace Taylor and Sabine Baring Gould. Apparently she was transformed. Shaw used this relationship, as the basis for his play Pygmalion which in turn became the musical My Fair Lady with marvellous music composed by Frederick Loewe based on the lyrics of Alan J Lerner.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s boarders at Warwick School would be taken out on a Sunday afternoon for a long walk in the country. Apparently they started and ended each walk by singing Onward! Christian Soldiers.

Baring Gould ended his career as the Vicar at Lewtrenchard in Devon. Grace died some years before he did, probably as the result of exhaustion, having given birth to and raised fifteen children. She is buried in the churchyard there. On the headstone, in Latin, is the inscription Dimidium Animea Meae – half of my soul.

Baring Gould could regularly be seen riding his pony and trap across Dartmoor and he was still doing so well into his 90s.

Join us at our Spring Concert on 25th April 2020 to hear our medley from My Fair Lady.