Well-known Hastings composer dies

A well-known composer and music advisor from Hastings has died.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 12:24 pm
John Simpson SUS-201007-121554001

John Simpson had many of his works performed in the White Rock Theatre and other venues and conducted the Hastings Area Youth Symphony Orchestra.

He died on Tuesday (July 7), aged 86.

His son, Nick, said his father was a classical composer and the music advisor for the Hastings area from 1969 to 1992.

He said: “The music scheme under John’s leadership was a free system for children to have free access to music lesson, the loan of an instrument and the chance of playing in one of the orchestras.

“He conducted the Hastings Area Youth Symphony Orchestra which premiered various of his orchestral works, including four symphonies and a children’s opera based on Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant.”

John was born in Mitcham, London and during the war he was evacuated to Cornwall.

He eventually attended Harrow County School and went on to study music at Trinity College.

After graduating John became a secondary music teacher and worked in Liverpool and Basildon, where he met his wife Elizabeth who was also teaching at Fryerns School in the town.

During his time in Basildon, John formed the Basildon Choral Society.

John moved to Hastings in 1969 with his family and worked to push music forward in the local area.

His son said: “His passion for music education and European travel took many children involved in the music scheme on ambitious tours of West Germany and Holland.

“As ties with Hastings’ twin towns strengthened regular trips to Béthune, Schwerte, Dordrecht and Oudenaarde took place for music students in the town during the 80s. It was through his commitment to music education that the Music Centre was opened in the former Priory Road school.

“Youth music in Hastings inspired many young people to learn an instrument who would not have had the opportunity.

“Many went on to pursue music professionally because of the music scheme and it also provided a much-needed community and positive engagement for many teenagers during the 70s and 80s.”

Nick said as funding for the arts and music became less and the nature of music education was changing to a private scheme, his father took early retirement in 1992 and devoted his time to examining worldwide for Trinity College of Music and composing.

Nick added: “His later works were mainly for chamber combinations and include a trio for flute, violin and piano, a piano trio and a series of 13 string quartets.”

John suffered a debilitating stroke in 2016 and moved into Hastings Court care home in 2018.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and five grandchildren.

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