Centenary of birth of man of influence

NEXT Thursday marks the centenenary of the birth of George Linstead, one of the most famous names associated with music in Sheffield.

For 32 years, 1940-72, he was music critic and writer on the forerunners of this newspaper, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and Morning Telegraph, and for almost as many years, programme note writer for Sheffield Philharmonic Concerts – now Sheffield International Concert Season.

Indeed, programme notes he wrote many years ago for some works have appeared occasionally in much more recent times, although he died in 1974 just short of his 67th birthday.

Less well-known perhaps is that he was a composer of some note, his name appearing in a number of European music dictionaries.

The Hall, City of Birmingham, BBC Northern (now BBC Philharmonic) and BBC Scottish played his works and people like George Weldon (his biggest champion) and John Barbirolli conducted them.

He was also organist and choirmaster at four Sheffield churches from 1928 until his death, a pianist of considerable ability, lecturer in music at Sheffield University, and conductor – one his biggest successes wearing this cap was The Desert Song at the Sheffield Empire in 1935.

The youngest of seven children born to English parents at Melrose in Scotland on January 24 1908, his family moved back south to the village of Doveridge in South Derbyshire in 1911.

His father, a stud groom, died in 1915 and his mother and siblings moved to Sheffield (remaining here for the rest of his life) in 1917 because one of his sisters had secured a job here.

By then an accomplished pianist, he composed his first works, a piano sonata and an oratorio (both later destroyed) in 1920. By 1934, his compositions had reached Op 100.

Leaving Sheffield Central School in 1923, financial restraints prevented him from going to university and over the next 30 years he obtained numerous degrees and diplomas by means of external study, including a BMus in 1931 and DMus in 1940 both from Durham University.

In 1940 he also married May Dorothy Griffiths (1906-2001) after a decade's courtship. Their only child, Stephen, was born in 1941 and now lives in Solihull.

His father's life and music are documented in a well-researched monograph, A Musician of Renown, by Christopher Powell who studied with Linstead at Sheffield University in the 1960s.

It can be found on a specially-created Linstead centenary website www.georgeflinstead.org.uk and strongly suggests some of his compositions have lapsed into undeserved obscurity, as he has as a composer.

The author will be giving a lecture on George Linstead at Sheffield University's Department of Music followed by a recital of some of his works on Monday, February 11 at 4.15pm. Admission is free.