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Conductor, composer and choirmaster who co-presented Music Time for BBC television

The conductor, composer and choirmaster Ian Humphris, who has died aged 84, inspired countless young musicians, either in person or via his many radio and TV appearances. From 1970 he co-presented, with the singer Mari Griffith, Music Time for BBC TV, and went on to present and compose for Music Makers, Music Workshop and Words and Pictures on BBC radio. Those of us who grew up with those programmes rather took for granted the remarkable inclusivity of them. Everyone can sing a tune, was the premise, everyone can play something even if it is only a triangle. Therefore music is for all of us.

It was that philosophy that led Ian to the London Centre for Young Musicians, where from 1978 until 2000 he was head of choral studies and singing. His commitment to the accessibility of music-making led him to donate large quantities of his own choral arrangements and compositions to their community and youth music library.

Born in Clacton, Essex, Ian was the son of a shipping clerk father. When he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Music, London, for violin, piano and composition, he was the first in his family to go beyond school education. Although he won many prizes at the RAM for composing, it was as a freelance singer that he entered the music business. His innate musicality and his ability to blend – socially as well as vocally – made him a valued member of ensembles such as the Ambrosian Singers, the Purcell Singers (under Imogen Holst) and the Baccholian Singers of London, with whom he recorded and toured extensively.

Principal among these vocal ensembles was the Linden Singers, which he joined in 1950, eventually becoming their co-director and conductor. The group was constantly in demand for TV appearances, live radio broadcasts and concert tours, and became a great breeding ground for future stars of the profession. As the demand increased, Ian continued to provide dozens of vocal arrangements for the Lindens, contributing significantly to their distinctive style.

It was this ability to produce reams of music under pressure, as well as an easy charm, that led Ian to his broadcasting career. Amateur adult performers, too, benefited from his care. In 1966 he became the NatWest Choir's first professional conductor, a post he held for 40 years. In 2007 he acquired a cottage in Suffolk where, naturally, he formed a choir, the Halesworth Festival Voices. Under his leadership they performed two choral concerts a year, the most recent in October, and he was planning their next season at the time of his death.

Earlier this year when I needed some dance band arrangements for the score I was writing for the film Hyde Park on Hudson, I knew exactly where to turn. Ian's work was of course graceful and impeccable, but most typical was his presence at the recording session – as dapper as ever, offering words of support and camaraderie to the musicians.

In 1960 he married Jean Mitchell. She died in 2009. Ian is survived by two daughters, Caroline and Susan.

Ian William Humphris, musician and broadcaster, born 29 November 1927; died 16 November 2012

Jeremy Sams

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source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/dec/31/ian-humphris


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