Bexhillians’ pride in muscian

Sir Philip Ledger
Sir Philip Ledger

BEXHILL music legend Sir Philip Stevens Ledger has died at the age of 74 after a long illness.

Sir Philip was the son of Mr and Mrs Wally Ledger, formerly of Clevedon Road.

The foundation for Sir Philip’s distinguished career started when he began studying the piano aged six. Educated at Bexhill’s former grammar school, the first of many musical accolades were awarded to him when, for three consecutive years, he won the Junior Concerto Cup at the Hastings Musical Festival, and in 1953 won the Piera Challenge Cup. Securing a place at King’s College, Cambridge, Sir Philip studied music, gaining a double first in the music tripos and a distinction in the MusB. Whilst there he met his wife to be, Mary Wells, a principal soprano at the Royal Opera House.

Sir Philip’s exceptional musical talents continued to be recognised when, in 1961, he was appointed master of music at Chelmsford Cathedral, affording him the title of the youngest cathedral organist in England.

Four years later he became directorate of music at the University of East Anglia, dean of the School of Fine Arts and Music, and established the University’s award winning Music Centre. As joint artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, collaborating with Sir Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, he conducted at the Snape Maltings and played the chamber organ in first performances of Britten’s works. In 1974 he returned to King’s College, Cambridge, as organist and director of music. He took charge of the chapel choir between 1974 and1982 and the annual Christmas Eve broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols became a firm favourite with the nation.

In 1985 Sir Philip was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and knighted in the Queen’s Honours in 1999 for services to music.

Bexhill-based conductor, Brian Wright, paid tribute to Sir Philip. “Countless young musicians owed a great deal to him. He was a wonderful educationalist, a superb keyboard player, a fine composer and a particularly magnificent conductor of choirs.

“He retired to Sussex and in 2004 was the chief inspiration behind the Hastings International Piano Competition, until recently chairing the jury

“ He will be sorely missed”