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Modus Music News
No 11, September 2002


Carey Blyton (1932–2002)

Derek Foster, Modus Music News no 11, September 2002

With much regret, we have to announce the death of Carey Blyton in July, soon after his 70th birthday. He will be greatly missed by those of us in Modus who had got to know him well, and by his many other friends and colleagues. Our sympathies are extended to his family.

The publication of The Silly Flea (SATB) in 1964 by Novello as a Musical Times supplement, with a biographical article, would have brought his name to a wide audience. Other works had by then been published by Mills Music, Ascherberg and Boosey & Hawkes. He was Professor of Harmony, Counterpoint and Orchestration at Trinity College in the 1960s, and at that time started to get work writing for television, film, library music and for advertising. In 1964 he became music editor at Faber & Faber where he was Britten’s personal editor. In the 1970s he was Visiting Professor of Composition for Film, Television and Radio at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The Girl from Nogami (1976), a one-act opera commissioned by the Guildhall School, received its European premiere in 1980, and was reviewed with acclaim in many continental papers (“a jewel in sound”—De Morgen, “a wonderful score … overflows with melody”—De Standaard, and many others). His tonal style had been out of fashion in the preceding years and, when the score was rejected for the second time by the BBC, Carey wrote letters and articles in The Listener and Sunday Telegraph criticising the organisation’s lack of “interest in music which has an immediate appeal”. This cannot have done him any favours with the establishment.

The forthcoming CD, including his important works, Lyrics from the Chinese and Lachrymae—In memoriam John Dowland, should help to sustain an interest in his music. The existing CDs from Apollo Sound and Upbeat Recordings contain a wealth of attractive material.

On a personal level, his entertaining and sometimes wicked puns on certain composers’ names and work titles amused us all, but cannot be repeated here! (Perhaps a flavour may be given by the supposed location of the writing of his Indigo Blues—‘Hardh Pawncore’.) Carey was a writer of nonsense verse as well as a composer. He was still joking when I last spoke to him, despite his worsening health, and I shall remember his optimism and humour, reflected in his music.