Retired director of music dies, age 98

A highly-respected Shropshire musician who was honoured by the Queen has died a few weeks before his 99th birthday.

A photograph of John Stainer, a highly-respected Shropshire musician, playing the piano just five days before his death
A photograph of John Stainer, a highly-respected Shropshire musician, playing the piano just five days before his death

John Ranald Stainer, OBE, FRCM, FRCO, Hon RAM, was director of music at Shrewsbury School in the 1950s and spent almost 20 years as registrar for the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London.

He retired with wife Thea to Worthen in the the mid-1970s after his time at the RCM and served as the village's church organist until he was 92.

He conducted the Ludlow Symphony Orchestra for almost 20 years up until 1995. He also travelled widely in retirement as a senior examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

John and Thea Stainer pictured at Worthen Church

Mr Stainer died on January 9 and his funeral will take place at All Saints' Church, Worthen, on Monday at noon.

Mr Stainer was born on February 15, 1915, in London to a family with a considerable musical pedigree.

His grandfather was Sir John Stainer, writer of The Crucifixion, the popular Easter oratorio.

Mr Stainer attended Cambridge University from 1934 to 1937, winning an organ scholarship to Christ's College. He subsequently spent a year as a student at the Royal College of Music, where he was taught by Ralph Vaughan Williams among others.

He also met his future wife, the oboist Thea Cecil, at the RCM where she was a fellow student, with the pair getting married in 1939 in Buckinghamshire.

Before coming to Shropshire, he was director of music at Dover College but, during World War Two, he worked in the War Office where he attained the rank of major after not being able to serve on the frontline because of an eye problem.

He moved to Shrewsbury School in 1950, remaining at the school until 1958. While there, he composed the music for a special Masque in 1952 to celebrate the school's 400th anniversary which was later broadcast on the BBC.

Mr Stainer was then appointed as registrar at the RCM where he worked until his retirement in 1976. He was awarded an OBE for his services to music in 1973.

A much earlier photograph of Thea and John

He had two children, Gareth and Juliet, as well as five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He celebrated his diamond wedding anniversary with Thea in 1999, with his wife passing away in 2006.

His son Gareth said his father had shown musical ability from a very early age.

"A baby book kept by his mum recorded when he was 14 months old, before he could talk, his older sister sang him nursery rhymes and he sang them back," he said.

He said as well as playing the organ, piano and viola, his father was also an accomplished composer, with several of his pieces played by professional ensembles.

He was also an excellent reader of music.

"You could put a score up on the piano stand which might have four or five lines of stringed instruments and all the wind instruments, some playing in different keys, and he could condense it to a piano part in real time."

He said his parents had enjoyed their retirement to rural Shropshire, given their links with Shrewsbury School.

"They had kept a lot of friends from the school and thought it was a nice place to retire to.

"He loved fishing and gardening and walking and their house had a lovely view to the Stiperstones," he said.

The family has received many tributes to Mr Stainer, including from past students at the RCM who had spoken of their admiration for him.

"In a quiet way, he did them all sorts of favours over and above the call of duty," Gareth said.

Mr Stainer's musical talents have passed down to his children and grandchildren. Juliet's eldest son, Edward Dusinberre leads the international Takacs String Quartet and Gareth's eldest, Dickon Stainer, is president of Decca, the record company.

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