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Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3

John Steane April 28, 1928 – March 17, 2011


I remember John Steane in his early days as a teacher at Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood. His teaching of English was essentially that of an enthusiast for the books or plays being studied, eager to praise what was good and to analyse why that was so. He encouraged his pupils to a similar mixture and enthusiasm and critical analysis.
But it was outside his formal teaching that his influence was greatest, especially amongst those who were not musical specialists. He organized frequent lunchtime concerts where pupils and staff played and sang an astonishing range of music. From “Cox and Box” to Bartok and Webern (unusual in schools in the early 1950s) and from Barber Shop to the sextet from Lucia (with the aid of pupils from a nearby girls’ school), all were normal fare for us with John’s encouragement. He arranged occasional visits to Sadlers Wells where he would tell of other performances of the works we were hearing that he had experienced. He was an enthusiastic if not always accurate pianist and singer. He sometimes accompanied morning prayers on the organ where his choice of music to accompany the normally dignified exit of the masters included Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and “With cat like tread”.
On the all too rare occasions I met him subsequently he still had a twinkle in his eye as well as a whole-hearted enthusiasm for music, especially vocal music. His nickname as a teacher had been Pickwick, appropriate for someone who so much encouraged gusto for life in others. His books on Marlowe and Tennyson are admirable introductions to those writers but it is his various books about singers that are likely to be his main legacy. They will surely be counted as an important part of that great tradition of musical criticism which has included Shaw, Cardus and Porter, and which can be read with interest and pleasure regardless of the reader’s concern for the subject. The mixture of knowledge, enthusiasm, analysis, humour and imagination that he invariably produced was a model of its kind. Most of my own writing has been in fields far from music but I have tried hard to emulate these characteristics. He was a fine teacher and a fine writer but for anyone who knew him it was his humanity and enthusiasm that will be best remembered.
John Sheppard












































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