Peter Pears Correspondence from 1983

In the summer of 1983, I was approaching the long summer vacation from my history studies at Cambridge University. Cambridge is in East Anglia (sort of!). So is Aldeburgh (definitely!), so to my completely naive and geographically-incompetent mind, it seemed an ideal opportunity to write to Peter Pears at the Red House, Aldeburgh and to ask him if I could come pay a visit and discuss the music of Benjamin Britten with him. I didn't expect he'd agree to such an intrusion on his time and privacy, but I enclosed a stamped, self-addressed envelope for his reply and so thought I might at least get his autograph out of the exchange.

Imagine my surprise when he wrote back to say he'd be pleased to see me! (The black and white card). I then wrote back to propose a firm date in August 1983, and he replied (in lurid pink!) to agree to the meet-up.

I eventually made my way from Cambridge to Aldeburgh on the appointed day, spent an hour in his company with a cup of tea and a stale digestive biscuit, discussing things such as the staging of Death in Venice. I don't recall a lot of what we discussed now: it was mostly star-struck hero-worshipping gibberish on my part, I fear! I do remember him concluding our meeting by urging me, if I really loved Ben's music, to tell people. Always. Which I've basically done ever since: it was sort-of a holy commandment to do so, after all! I had taken my vocal score of the War Requiem to the meeting, hoping he would sign it for me... but, in the end, I didn't feel like being a mere autograph hunter, and it just didn't feel right to ask him. So I didn't... to my eternal regret!

History finally came full-circle in May 2022, when I was able to donate the correspondence back to the Red House library, from when it had originally come 39 years earlier!