Lincoln School in the 1940s was not known for the quality of its music teaching, and it was not possible to take the subject to ‘Ordinary’ or ‘Advanced’ levels at GCE. Despite that, and due to the efforts of visiting music teachers such as Clifford Hewis, assistant organist and choirmaster to Dr Gordon Slater at Lincoln Cathedral, coupled with the skills and dedication of local private music teachers, the School produced some outstanding musicians during that period. These included Graham Patman FRCO, Graham Garton GRSM, LRAM, and Steve Race OBE. Race went on to achieve a considerable national reputation as a composer, pianist and broadcaster. However perhaps the most eminent of musical scholars in the 1940s was Neville Marriner, who played in a jazz band at Lincoln School with Steve Race. Marriner was in fact a pupil at Lincoln School during the 1940s, and was a contemporary of Charles Garton. He was born in Lincoln in 1924, and after leaving school he attended the Royal College of Music in London, and also studied at the Paris Conservatoire. His main instrument was the violin, and in the early stages of his career he played with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. During that period he played under such conducting legends as Toscanini, Furtwangler, and Karajan. He also played chamber music with the Martin String Quartet, and later founded the Jacobean Ensemble with a colleague.
His potential as a violinist was recognised in the July 1938 edition of The Lincolnian, the School magazine. The School Notes recorded that ‘N Marriner continues to do well as a violinist; he was second with 87 marks in the open violin class at the recent Skegness Music Festival’. The July 1941 edition celebrated his being awarded the Morley Scholarship at the Royal College of Music for the second successive year. I regret to report, however, that his name appears in the Prefects’ Detention Book on a number of occasions, for such heinous crimes as persistent cheek and fooling about in the library! His sense of mischief is also recorded in an interview in the 8 April edition of The Times. During the 1950s, when he was a young musician, Sir Neville recalled that he larked about with the best of them, and bombed the London Symphony Orchestra bus with a load of flour bags dropped from a friend’s Tiger Moth plane on the road from Brussels to Ostend. Oh, Sir Neville!
Marriner’s musical career took on a new dimension when, after studying conducting with Pierre Monteux in the USA, he founded the Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields chamber orchestra in 1959. He began as its concertmaster, but later became its conductor for many years. During that time he made many recordings with the orchestra, including a huge discography with EMI. Some of his recordings (including vinyl 33rpm records) are stored in the Garton Archive at LCHS.
Marriner is known throughout the world for the quality of his music-making and recordings. He was the first Music Director of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra from 1969-86, and went on to become Music Director of the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, and later the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. He was also in demand as a guest conductor around the world.
Following his success in supervising the Mozart selection for the 1984 film, ‘Amadeus’, Neville Marriner was knighted for his services to music. He was also awarded the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Minstry of Culture, and was honoured by the Austrian Music Academy for the excellence of his Mozart recordings. The Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields Orchestra is in fact the most comprehensively recorded chamber orchestra in the world, and if you tune in to Radio 3 or Classic FM for any length of time, the chances are that you will hear one of his recordings being played.
In 1996 Sir Neville returned to Lincoln to open a concert series at the Central Methodist Church, where he conducted the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra once again. His father, Herbert, had been organist and choirmaster at the church, and his mother had been a member of the choir. Other local musicians who took part in the concert included Christopher Newport, principal horn with the London Mozart Players, his pianist brother Mark, and flautist Ruth Morley. It is fitting that Sir Neville was awarded the Lincoln Civic Award in 1998, and as a result of a chance meeting at the Guildhall, had a rose named after him, described in The Lincolnshire Echo (12 February 1997) as ‘…beautiful, subtly coloured, sweet-smelling and very elegantly shaped’. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music from the University of Hull at the Bishop Grosseteste College graduation ceremony in July 1998.
As I write, Sir Neville Marriner is now 87, and has taken a back seat with the orchestra. However he remains active as a musician, is still in demand as a guest conductor, and is assured of his place in history as one of the most celebrated alumni of Lincoln School.
The Echo photograph shows Sir Neville conducting the school orchestra during a visit to Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School in 1993. In contrast to Lincoln School in the 1940s and 50s, LCHS has a flourishing music department, with facilities for pupils to study to GCSE and Advanced levels, and opportunities for extra-curricular activities, including choir, orchestra, band, string quartet and jazz group. There are two full-time teachers, two large teaching rooms, two practice rooms and a dedicated computer suite.