The James Ching Piano School ran successfully for two years until the whole venture come up against the new 1948 Planning Law. The area where the school was housed in Hollycroft Avenue Hampstead became zoned as a residential area restricting business development. It was no longer possible to use the large house for a school and it had to be sold. The school was dispersed to various different venues with the teachers taking the students with them and despite efforts to find another suitable premise at a reasonable price, nothing was found. James rented a private flat further up Hollycroft Avenue where he could teach and live. From this time he continued teaching and making recordings of his students and his own playing in his music room with his own equipment and a number of these recordings at 78 rpm still exist. There is less documentary evidence of public performance during these years although a programme for the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts for 17th September 1954 shows him playing solo pianoforte in a performance of Brandenburg Concerto Number 5 (Bach) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent in the Royal Albert Hall.
A contemporary copy of the magazine The Gramophone Record for July 1952 features a photo of James on the cover. Inside the magazine is an article written by him on The Keyboard Works of Bach in which he expresses his excitement at being asked by Argo Records to record the complete keyboard works of Bach. Although there is an advertisement by Argo Records of an LP recording by James of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue plus the G Major French Suites there is no further documentary evidence that this project was completed, and the only recordings of James playing apparently available are his own personal ones.
The only other evidence of public performances after 1954 is when he was invited to play at the Edinburgh Festival on 26th August 1954 when he played Bach Concerto in D Major for Piano and Strings with the Jacques Orchestra, conducted by Reginald Jacques. The programme for the following night, 27th August 1954, shows James giving a Bach Piano Recital. He played Fantasia in C Minor, French Suite in G Major, Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, Four Preludes and Fugues from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier and the Partita in B flat. A press cutting for the first concert praises his playing in the following words ‘Yesterday the woodwind family was replaced by the piano, and James Ching made one of his rare appearances (note the word rare) as the soloist in Bach’s D Minor Concerto. It was an absorbing, beautiful performance, pellucid in its clarity, and a perfect example of ‘timing’. If Bach’s music is to be played on the piano this is the way to do it. It whetted the appetite for tonight’s recital in the Freemasons’ Hall’.
If that is the final report to end a lifetime of piano playing it is a good way to go out. There does not seem to be any special reason why James’ numerous public performances seemed to die out in the 1950s. There may have been other small concerts like the one he gave to the Norfolk and Norwich Music Club on 24th September 1955 when he played a similar programme of Bach to the one he played in Edinburgh the previous year. He was by then 55 years old and maybe, having played so much in earlier years, it was time to concentrate on teaching rather than performing.
During his last years he spent much of his time editing music for Keith Prowse Publishing and many of these editions are still available for students and teachers. His last book ‘On Teaching Piano Technique to Children’ was published by Keith Prowse in 1962, not long before his death in July that year.
The James Ching Professional Service continued until his death in 1962 and afterwards it was run by one of his old pupils Elizabeth Fraser for many years. It expanded to offer materials for school examinations, offering marked scores and musical analysis to schools all over the country. It still runs today and CDs made from James Ching’s own original 78 recordings are available for sale via the website, jameschingmusicnotes.co.uk.
James Ching 1900 – 1962
Information collated by Mary Bonnin (daughter of James Ching) March 2019