Partner David Brynley

Queer Places:
Little Woolgarston Cottage, Woolgarston, Corfe Castle, Wareham BH20 5JE

Norman Notley; David Brynley and an unknown man, possibly by Lady Ottoline Morrell, vintage snapshot print, 16 June 1936Norman Notley (October 20, 1890 - 1980), baritone and singing teacher, and his partner, David Brynley, tenor, lived at Little Woolgarston Cottage.

Norman Notley was an opera singer, a quiet individual hired by Hilda Spencer-Watson as a singer in her dance mimes; he would frequent their residence in Purbeck when Mary Spencer-Watson was a child and, in an interview, Mary recounts that Norman fell in love with the area and sought to live there himself, eventually doing just that.

David Brindley engendered excitement wherever he went, serving as a source of endless tales for all. Before moving to Purbeck with Norman, he would sing at a theatre called the ‘Lyric Hammersmith’ in London, as well as perform on the radio. Just after the First World War, when he acquired a substantial inheritance, David bought a small cottage in Purbeck near Corfe Castle that the two entitled the “Crock-Pot”.

The English Singers, co-founded in 1920 by the singers Cuthbert Kelly and Steuart Wilson, was a vocal group which specialised in early English music. The group made dozens of recordings of English madrigals between 1921 and 1955.[1] In October 1924, Whelen, Wilson and Carey were replaced by Nellie Carson, Norman Stone and Norman Notley. This group toured America in 1925, the first of many such tours.[8]

Photograph of English Singers (Norman Notley, Norman Stone, Flora Mann, Nellie Carson, Lillian Berger, Cuthbert Kelly)

In October 1932 Kelly formed a new group, the New English Singers,[12] whose repertoire was again Elizabethan madrigals but also including contemporary works by Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams.[13] The members were Dorothy Silk and Nellie Carson (sopranos), Mary Morris (contralto), David Brynely and Norman Notley (tenors) and Kelly himself. The group toured in the United States, appearing at New York's Town Hall.[13] Both tenors were replaced by 1936, the new tenors being Eric Greene and Peter Pears who joined the group in time for its tour that year in the United States and Canada.[2]

Brynley and Notley were lifelong companions and part of the bohemian artistic community surrounding Corfe Castle near the seaside resort of Swanage in Dorset, UK in the 1930's. They became influential music historians and eventually, film makers. They recorded extensively for various labels in the early days of the British folk revival and specialized in Elizabethan music. The recordings made in the late 1950s featured Brynley and Notley accompanied by Paul Wolf on the harpsichord.

In an audio clip recorded in 1979, the couple (now in their 80s – 90s) can be heard reminiscing over their past works, talking directly with the microphone, drawing you in to the scene as though you were in the room. Norman begins by exclaiming his delight that the records had been rediscovered, stating there were almost too many to recall before speaking of David’s exploits in recording them despite not really knowing how to handle “mechanical things”. This is accompanied by contagious giggling from David in the background who comments on Norman’s stuttering while trying to be careful with his wording, jokingly stating “I don’t know anything about anything! I do everything with the courage of ignorance.”

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