Norman Blow obituary

Other lives: Music teacher, oboist and lover of choirs and orchestras

My friend Norman Blow, who has died aged 89, was a musician and much-loved teacher who lived a full and varied life with energy, charm and a wicked sense of humour.

Born in Farnborough, Hampshire, Norman was a country boy. His first day at school was within days of the outbreak of the second world war. As the blitz began, his parents, Leonard Blow, an engineer, and Winifred (nee Organ), who had worked in domestic service, moved the family into London, where they opened a grocer’s shop.

Norman moved in and out of London with his family during the war, attending several schools. He enjoyed learning the flute, but after his mother accidentally sat on it, he saw an oboe in a shop window, and that became his main instrument for life.

He left school at 16 without any qualifications. After a couple of office jobs, a friend suggested he join the RAF as a musician. A successful audition led to a year at the RAF Music School in Uxbridge. His first major engagement with the RAF was the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, every detail of which remained clear in his memory all his life.

A posting with the air force band in Singapore opened the world to him as the band played at events all over the far east. To improve his life chances, he began taking O-levels, and after demob, he applied to Goldsmiths, University of London, to train as a primary school teacher, with music as his main subject. Gaining a BMus in 1972 and later an MA from Reading University, he spent 40 years teaching and inspiring many students. After working at various schools in Kent, in 1972 he became head of music at Wombwell Hall girls’ grammar school, Northfleet, remaining there for 22 years. He loved to organise skiing trips and opera visits for his students.

As well as teaching he was out every night of the week, playing in orchestras, singing in choirs, and conducting local bands, choirs and orchestras. He sang in church choirs all his life from the age of 11.

The RAF years kindled an appetite for travel, and Norman visited most of Europe, Africa, South America, India and Australia. Travel also deepened his love for animals, and he supported several animal charities.

After retiring, he continued as a supply teacher in various parts of Kent and taught privately. He continued singing, playing and conducting well into his 80s. Norman had been editor of the RAF Music Services Association magazine, The Blue and the Gold, for the last 20 years. In 2018 he moved from his home in Gravesend to live with me, an old friend, in North Yorkshire.

He is survived by two children, John and Elizabeth, from his marriage to Christine, which ended in divorce.


June Emerson

The GuardianTramp

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