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RIP Rosemary Few (1932-2020)

 

We are shocked and saddened to bring you news of the death of former RGS Music Teacher, Rosemary Few (RGS staff 1979-2004), who was assaulted on 21 June, while walking in Reigate. Tragically, she suffered head injuries and died in hospital five days later.

Police are investigating and a 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder detained under the Mental Health Act.

Rosemary Few (Hill) (nee Bannister) was born in Croydon in 1932. Already learning piano, she took up the clarinet at Croydon High School. At the early age of 17, she left school to take up a full Exhibition to the Royal College of Music where she studied with the foremost clarinetist of the day, Frederick Thurston.

Soon after graduating, Rosemary joined the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra at the express invitation of assistant conductor Norman Del Mar, who had conducted her in the Croydon Symphony Orchestra. Within a year the YSO was under threat of closure from the local authority and Rosemary, together with horn-playing partner Raymond Few, suddenly had to consider other options. By 1955 they were married, enjoying an extended working honeymoon as members of the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra. On returning to the UK, Rosemary freelanced with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Andrzej Panufnik before being offered a position with the Festival Ballet and Ballet Rambert. The couple set up home in Fox Hill, Crystal Palace but within a couple of years they were on the move again, this time setting sail (with their car – and newly-born daughter Debbie) to Wellington, where Rosemary played with the New Zealand Broadcasting Company Symphony Orchestra.

On coming back to the UK in 1964, Rosemary returned to playing for ballet companies in London, and the now growing family moved to Redhill, Surrey. Teaching gradually took the place of performing and she taught at several local schools. From 1979, she was a long-serving member of the music staff at Reigate Grammar School. As her local influence grew, Rosemary was appointed woodwind secretary for the Reigate and Redhill Music Festival, organising classes, booking visiting adjudicators and choosing the repertoire for all the woodwind classes. Rosemary continued to perform, playing at each summer’s Holland Park Opera Festival, and on moving back to Reigate she joined the Crawley Millennium Concert Band (in 1994) and the Band of the Surrey Yeomanry (in 2000). After Ray’s death, she had a happy second marriage to Robert Hill.

She lived for music and especially J.S Bach. She was a talented, all-round musician who could accompany her pupils at the piano in Brahms and then demonstrate the phrasing on the clarinet. She died suddenly and tragically on 25 June and will be sadly missed by her family, friends, neighbours and former pupils.

Rosemary is survived by her three children, Debbie, Richard and Jonathan.

Tribute from Robert Marsh, RGS Director of Music 1979-1986

“Not long after I became Director of Music at the beginning of 1979, it became clear that, due to the rising numbers of boys and girls who wished to learn a musical instrument, I would have to expand the number of Visiting Music Teachers at the School. Rosemary was my first appointment, joining us in the Music Department to teach clarinet and piano.

It was clear that Rosemary was an excellent teacher who wished to give as much as possible to the Department. She was always ready to help, in a most supportive, loyal and discreet way, and she was also a warm and rock-steady presence at concerts, operas and musicals. Famously, she was a member of the orchestra in the production of Richard Rodney Bennett’s All the King’s Men in 1983 which featured the young David Walliams as Queen Henrietta Maria. When David returned to RGS in 2012 to make a television documentary about this production, I was delighted that Rosemary was able to join us as we spent a whole Sunday making the film, in company with other students and staff from those days thirty years earlier.

Rosemary had a very distinguished career in music and personally knew many big names, including John Williams, composer of the music for some of the most famous films of our times, such as Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Superman and so many others. Yet she always remained so modest about these connections.

Though very saddened indeed to hear of Rosemary’s passing, the news has reminded me of my own very happy times at RGS before I headed back to my native Yorkshire in 1986 to serve as organist at Ripon Cathedral. These were very interesting times for the school, fairly newly-reverted to independent status, with an astonishingly large number of young people who have gone on to great national and international prominence in the arts, politics, media and so many other fields. Rosemary certainly played her part in the story of RGS as the school travelled on its exciting road.

I was indeed privileged and honoured to know and work with Rosemary; a lovely, friendly and musical lady.’’

Due to the ongoing police investigation, the funeral is unlikely to take place until late summer/early autumn. If you would like to receive details, please email foundation@reigategrammar.org.

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