Local Faces: Bill & Barbara McGillivray

  |  Published: Feb 1st 2018

Barbara and Bill moved to Wendover nearly 8 years ago when they were starting to think about retirement. They had both had successful careers in the music business, he as a session guitarist and singer and she as a classical and music theatre singer.

They met in 1977 in a London recording studio where they were involved in recording an experimental album which was a minor hit in Europe.

Up to that time Bill had been working as a guitarist in various bands, touring in Europe and the UK and also as a song writer for EMI. Interestingly, he had graduated from the Guildhall School of Music where he had studied trumpet and composition. However all through his youthful years he had played guitar which eventually became his first love.

Barbara studied classical singing and piano at the Royal Academy of Music and spent the first few years of her career doing whatever came her way. This ranged from operatic roles and early music recitals to the Palladium Pantomime! She has sung at many major UK venues including the Wigmore Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall.They married in 1984 whilst living in Berkhamsted and continued working in London on various TV shows and recordings. Those were the heady days of the great variety shows on TV - The Two Ronnies, The Royal Variety Performances and many more. They both sang on many albums of successful artists such as David Essex, Chris de Burgh, Roxy Music, Elaine Paige ...... plus countless bookings for Friday Night is Music Night.

Barbara also recorded a solo album in 1982 entitled ‘Pastourelle’ featuring Julian Lloyd Webber and Rod Argent (and Bill). This album was very highly acclaimed but sank without trace. That’s life. (This album can be heard on iTunes.)

In 1984 they had a wonderful offer from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company to train and organise off- stage singers for his new musical ‘Starlight Express’. They had both been singing occasionally in ‘Cats’ so this was an area they knew well. It turned out to be the job of a lifetime in that the work was exciting and stimulating but also left the days free to work on other projects and this was a period of pretty intense activity for them both. They wrote several albums of music to be used as background music in films and TV and also became involved in teaching.

Bill taught guitar at Wellington College for 15 years then transferring to Berkhamsted School until he retired whilst Barbara was invited to start a Music Theatre Course at the Arts Educational School in Tring and she stayed there until 2011.

They are both examiners for the London College of Music and travel extensively in this role.

When they arrived in Wendover they knew nobody, but having more time on their hands they wanted to get involved in local life. Firstly they joined Wendover Choral Society which was a great move and within what seemed a very short time Barbara found herself Chairman of the Society and so she and Bill became much more visible. The choir has become a real source of friendship and social activity and they really value the friendships they have made. Like most Wendover residents they have discovered that there is no such thing as popping up to the shops. It takes time to talk to all the friends and acquaintances you meet en route.

They also have an interest in fundraising wherever possible and have put on many events in recent years, from Silent Movies with live accompaniment to professional concerts such as ‘The Seasons of England’.For the past 3 years they have both branched out musically, Bill has picked up his trumpet again after a 40 year silence and is now playing with the Aylesbury Concert Band and several other local ensembles. 

Barbara bought an accordion and has slowly (and painfully) become quite a decent player. With Bill playing mandolin and banjo they have been performing regularly for charities and private parties as The GillyBillies. They hope to build on this promising start and make this a big part of their retirement.

Like most retired people - they can’t imagine how they ever had time to work!

The GillyBillies are always available to help raise funds or just for your pleasure. Check them out on YouTube.

Bill & Barbara, courtesy B McGillivray
The GillyBillies
The GillyBillies
All photos courtesy Bill & Barbara McGillivray
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