Obituary, Philip Greene, influential British clarinettist and saxophonist

Philip John Carter Greene, musician AGSM / LGSM teachers / ARCM / FTCL clarinet / FTCL saxophone. Born: 22 April 1935 in Wanstead, Essex. Died 21 December 2020 in Aberdeen, aged 85

Philip Greene in his younger days, and in later years

Philip Greene, Clarinetist / Saxophonist, passed away from COVID 19 at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on 21st December, 2020. He is survived by his wife, JoAnne. His children, Mark, Carl, Sean, Danielle and Esther, and his grandchildren, Morven, Archie, Jacob, Oliver and Lucas.

Philip was a prolific musician, soloist and performer, teacher, poet and artist. A late starter on the clarinet, his musical career began at the age of 18. Shortly before he was due for call up as a national serviceman, he read an advertisement in the Melody Maker which read, “Earn while you learn in the Band of the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers”. Since he had to join the services anyway, he took the advice of his father to fruitfully spend the time learning a skill for life, a decision he never regretted.

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After military service he left the band as solo clarinettist and won a major award scholarship from Essex County Council to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London under the tutorage of Pamela Weston and Wilfred Kealey. Winner of the Chamber Music Prize and Orchestral Prize, he represented the college with pianist Jennifer Partridge in a concert tour of Northern Ireland, where they gave the first performance in that country of the Poulenc clarinet sonata. Upon the recommendation of the Guildhall’s Principal (Percival), he was awarded a scholarship to further his studies with Jost Michaels at The Northwest German Music Academy Detmold, Germany.

Leaving Germany in 1965 he came to Scotland joining a former colleague from the Guildhall, the eminent flautist David Nicholson, with whom he formed a strong friendship and musical association.

Philip appeared with many of the major British orchestras on both clarinet and saxophone, including the LSO, RLP, RSNO, BBC Scottish Orchestra and was the principle clarinettist of the Reid Orchestra and The Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He was Leonard Friedman’s clarinettist in The Scottish Baroque Ensemble, with whom he played for Scottish Opera, touring extensively. For thirty years he was called upon by June Gordon, Lady Aberdeen as principal clarinet for a week of opera and a weekend of oratorio at Haddo House - described by many as Scotland’s answer to Glyndebourne.

Basing himself in Edinburgh Philip pursued a thriving chamber music career with the Amphion Wind Quintet, Trio Concordia (soprano, clarinet & piano) and the Bernicia Ensemble, all of whom gave regular broadcasts for the BBC.

New works especially written for those groups helped rising Scottish composers find a platform, most notably Trio Concordia which included successful compositions by Isabel Dunlop, Rory Boyle and John McLeod and the Bernicia Ensemble perfumed the music of Thea Musgrave. All of which received first broadcast performances.

Philip collaborated on numerous occasions with the Edinburgh String Quartet, performing Mozart, Weber and Brahms quintets at The Edinburgh Festival. Encouraged by Kenneth Leighton, composer and professor of music at Edinburgh University, he gave, with members of the Edinburgh String Quartet what is believed to be the first performance in Britain of the three Mozart quartets discovered by Dieter Klocker. With the same ensemble he also gave the first broadcast performance of the quintet by Hans Gal rehearsed under the guidance of the composer in his own home. His friendship with Hans Gal led to performances of several of the composer’s works involving clarinet, including the clarinet sonata and the trio with orchestra for violin cello and clarinet. He wrote an article for CASS magazine on some of Hans Gal’s works, entitled “Attention for Hans Gal a Modern Romantic”.

In 1976 Philip founded The Scottish Saxophone Quartet along with John Grundy, David Miller and Ronnie Mackie, with whom as soprano saxophonist, he championed the cause of the classical saxophone. They were Britain’s sole representatives at the 1980 6th World Saxophone Congress in Chicago and gave concert performances in the USA. The quartet continued to give regular concerts until 2005.

With duo partner Sandra Brown “Saxophone Classique” gave the first full-length saxophone recital for the BBC in Scotland, a programme which included the first broadcast of the suite by Hans Gal.

Well known as a soloist, Philip gave concerto performances on the clarinet, basset horn and saxophone throughout the country and was broadcast and freelanced extensively. His interest in the basset horn led to performances with the Pro Arte Orchestra of the concerto by Rolla in eight English cities including London, York and Bath. On later tours to the same venues he played the Mozart clarinet concerto and Glazunov saxophone concerto. He also recorded this concerto for radio with “Cantilena” led by Adrian Shepherd.

He played the basset horn for a concert recorded for broadcast in St Martin’s in the Field with members of the BBC Scottish Orchestra. For performances of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito he was called upon to play the famous obligato parts for both clarinet and basset horn with the Scottish Baroque Ensemble at Ledlanet House.

Constantly in demand as an orchestral saxophonist with many of the major orchestras, he broadcasted with the BBC Scottish most of the repertoire requiring soprano, alto or tenor saxophones. The saxophone in the orchestra is not always welcomed with open arms and the French conductor Louis Frémaux once said to Philip “Mr Saxophone you are too loud”, this was before he had played a note and was getting his instrument out

of its case for the first rehearsal. Having worked for some years under Sir Alexander Gibson with Scottish Opera, Philip knew that he was playing well when, rehearsing with the SNO Sir Alex said “I very much admire your ability to play quietly on the saxophone but could you please play this passage a little louder!”

Encouragement from Sir Alexander led him to apply to the Sean Connery International Trust and the Scottish Arts Council for grants to enable him to study the teaching methods of the virtuoso saxophonist and highly respected teacher, Professor Eugene Rousseau at Indiana University, USA. Much inspired from this association he wrote an

extensive article on “The Teaching Methods of Eugene Rousseau” for the CASS magazine.

A later chamber music venture, “Ebony & Rosewood”, a duo for the unusual combination of clarinet and marimba formed with his elder son Mark, proved to be very popular with Scottish music clubs and produced a CD which received a very favourable review in CASS magazine. As well as writing original works for the duo, his arrangements of the Saint-Saens clarinet sonata and Beethoven’s piano sonata no.10 in Bb received enthusiastic responses. Some of Philip’s compositions and arrangements have been on sale through Emersons Wind Music, including the much admired arrangement sonata in Bb by Mozart, originally for violin. Of this arrangement Jack Brymer wrote “Congratulations! The Mozart is splendid and should be a worthy addition to the repertoire, and should sound good too and worth spreading the gospel”. Philip’s poem “He was a music man”, an homage to Jack Brymer, appeared in the 2003 Winter edition of CASS magazine.

Much in demand as a teacher, coach (The Scottish Youth Orchestra and The Edinburgh Youth Orchestra), and adjudicator, his positions included: Edinburgh University, The University of St Andrews and St Mary’s Music School Edinburgh. He started the first saxophone classes at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Napier University. For many years he was Head of Wind at The Edinburgh Academy where he taught the clarinet and saxophone. Through the interest of one boy, James Craig, he went on to develop a Big Band which produced many fine players. They include Jay Craig who became the baritone player in the Buddy Rich Band and the BBC Big Band. The Bancroft twins Tom and Phil who set the Scottish jazz scene alight. His former pupils include, saxophonist Tommy Smith and clarinettist Eileen Macaulay.

As conductor Philip worked on a regular basis with an Edinburgh rehearsal orchestra and the Edinburgh “Pops” Orchestra and was for several years conductor of the Orkney Summer School of Music and the Wind Band of the Scottish Independent Secondary Schools Orchestra

Philip Greene’s versatility brought the comment from Richard Ingham “Thank you for being the first person I heard play the soprano saxophone as a solo classical instrument and for being the first person I have heard play the Artie Shaw clarinet concerto in live performance”.

Although in 1995, at the age of 60, he retired from his teaching position at the Edinburgh Academy, this did not mean the end of his teaching career and he continued to teach part time at St Andrew’s University and privately. Nor did it mean he stopped performing. This time his partner for "Saxophone Classique" was Michael Lester-Cribb. As “Cantabile” the duo also performed works for clarinet and piano.

In June 2000 The Edinburgh Society of Musicians honoured him with a gift in recognition of his musical contributions to Edinburgh.

After his retirement, Philip pursued his interests in poetry and painting. He created his own technique “Prismatic Shapeism” and exhibited his works at galleries in Edinburgh, Burnley and Aberdeen.

About this technique, Philip said “I have coined this name for the style of my paintings on ‘Sterling board’. As well as completely abstract paintings I have found that it is also possible to be more representative in suggesting landscapes etc. whilst keeping mainly to the confines of the given arbitrary shapes provided by the sterling board”.

Right up until 2018, Philip continued to perform including several annual concerts at the Aboyne Festivals. His 2018 concert “A Robert Burns Tapestry”, which featured his arrangements of Burns’ songs given in St Thomas’s Church Aboyne as part of the Aboyne and Deeside Festival, he regarded as a most fitting swan song. Of his final concert he wrote “It has been a long journey with many highs and lows, but music has been with me throughout and the dear old 1010s have been there carrying me through. It is fitting that the last concert featured all Scottish melodies”. The 1010s he referred to are a pair of Boosey and Hawkes 1010 clarinets, the pre-war models of which were particularly close to his heart for their sound.

Philip was a kind man and a gentleman who touched the lives of a great many people, enriching them with his talent, warmth, patience and good humour. He is and will be greatly missed.

A service was held for immediate family only, and was also recorded. A link can be provided by contacting them directly.

It is hoped that a memorial concert will be held once restrictions ease.

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