Writings > By Others > A Personal Tribute

Gary Higginson is a composer, examiner, singer and writer on music who has studied with Carey Blyton, Edmund Rubbra and John Joubert. He contributed this short article for inclusion in the souvenir programme for the 80th anniversary Carey Blyton & Friends concert, which took place on 19th May 2012.

A Personal Tribute

Gary Higginson

15th February 2012
Carey Blyton & Friends souvenir programme

It is with great pleasure that I write about Carey, especially for the occasion of this concert, and whenever I do, I refer to a diary that I kept while a student at the Guildhall School of Music in the ’70s. I was one of about ten composers on the so-called Advanced Composers Course, and Carey taught us for a couple of hours on a Monday evening, as he was Visiting Professor of Composition for Film, Television & Radio, as his letterhead proudly proclaimed.

Although I left in 1975, we kept in contact and I performed many of his works, especially the educational ones. His “Unholy Trilogy” of Sweeney Todd, Dracula! and Frankenstein formed a staple diet for me, and I gave the first performance of the latter at St Helen’s, Abingdon in 1988, with Carey and his wife happily ensconced in the capacity audience.

But back to Carey and his teaching: he was quite eccentric and wonderfully unpredictable, and on one occasion devoted the entire session to listening to and discussing John Betjeman’s then-new LP, Banana Blush, with music by Jim Parker that Carey loved. For another session, he might wheel in a composer or send us away to write an ‘atmospheric variation’ on a certain topic, like ‘Goldfish’!

His letters were always interesting; he wrote in January 1993 that his early piano pieces “went terrifically well at my 60th birthday concert” and that he was “beginning to wonder why I let them moulder in a drawer for 40-odd years”; hence the forceful quip later: “never throw anything away!” which he inserted into a score he sent me of his Five Diversions for piano, op. 1a.

It was a joy and a privilege to know Carey Blyton. His influence will always remain strong with me, and I am thrilled to have known him.