It was especially sad for us to learn this month of the death at the age of 74 of Sir Jeffrey Tate, formerly Farnham Youth Choir’s Honorary President. A former resident of Farnham and an alumnus of Farnham Grammar School (now Farnham College), Jeffrey Tate was best known as one of this country’s leading conductors working with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including as Principal Conductor of the Royal Opera House and as Chief Conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, a position he held up until his death.
Before deciding on a career in music, he studied Medicine at Cambridge University and then specialised in ophthalmic surgery at St Thomas’ hospital in London. A talented pianist, it is probably less well known that he was a leading repetiteur, working with, amongst others, Georg Solti, Colin Davis, Pierre Boulez and Maria Callas.
A man of incredible talent, he had to battle against adversity all of his life having been born with spina bifida. Although spending most of his musical career living abroad, he never forgot Farnham or his friends at FYC, maintaining correspondence with us right up until his death. Indeed, a chance encounter with FYC’s Chairman in London earlier this year was an opportunity for him to catch-up on news.