A popular musician who led many musical activities in Watford for over 30 years has passed away and those he inspired remember “very special moments”.
Graham Garton (1929 – 2021) was Conductor and Music Director of the Watford Philharmonic Society from 1967 to 1989 and over the years has presented a large selection of music for choir and orchestra.
Longtime Watford Philharmonic Society member John Malin said: “The Society’s traditional Christmas concerts have always been a highlight and here we sometimes had as our soloist Barbara Howson’s beautiful soprano voice, the Graham’s wife.
“These were very special moments, as was Graham’s last concert in April 1989 at St Alban’s Abbey with an inspired interpretation of Elgar’s ‘Apostles’.”
Born in Hull in 1929, Graham Garton moved to Lincoln with his family in 1937 and became a student at the city’s Christ’s Hospital School, showing precocious musical talent.
In 1946, he obtained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated in 1949.
Graham’s long association with Watford and the surrounding area began in 1953, when he was appointed deputy director of music at the Royal Masonic School for Boys in Bushey.
A year later, he was promoted to principal – a position he held until the school closed in 1977.
Mr. Malin continued, “Meanwhile, music has flourished in the school with additional state-of-the-art facilities being built for the department and a number of boys learning instrumental, vocal and ensemble music.”
After the Masonic school closed, Graham became director of music at St Margaret’s Girls’ School, Bushey with his chapel choir winning the “Voices in Concert” competition at the Royal Festival Hall in 1987.
In 1989 Graham moved to Bermuda and became Music Director of the Bermuda Philharmonic Society until 2000.
Graham continued to maintain ties with the Watford Philharmonic, inviting members to join the Bermuda Philharmonic during their main concerts in the Anglican Cathedral in the islands’ capital, Hamilton.
Back in England, Graham and his family settled in Sleaford in Lincolnshire where he pursued various musical activities.
He returned to Watford on several occasions as the Company’s Conductor Emeritus and in 2015 attended a performance of his own composition “Magna Carta Cantata” conducted by the current Company Music Director, Michael Cayton as part of the local celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.