Death of respected former Burnley music teacher and Pendle pianist

A talented pianist, hugely respected Burnley music teacher and Pendle operatic conductor has died at the age of 90.

Geoffrey Lovett celebrating his 90th birthday last year during lockdown
Geoffrey Lovett celebrating his 90th birthday last year during lockdown

Born in Nelson, Mr Geoffrey Lovett rose to become head of music at St Theodore's RC Boys School in Burnley where he taught for many years from the early 1950s.

Described as a gentleman by his partner, Emily Say, Mr Lovett was highly thought of by former pupils and musicians, for his great skill as a pianist and operatic conductor, as well as his teaching ability.

Miss Say, who met Geoffrey four and a half years ago following the death of his wife Enid Trubgill, described him as a gentleman.

Geoffrey Lovett in his younger years

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She said: "Geoffrey was a wonderful teacher and a fine pianist. He was a very gentle person with a wonderful head of white hair, and will be fondly remembered by all who knew him. I have had former pupils in tears on the phone when I told them of his passing.

"Geoffrey grew up in Pendle and came to be associated with the Pendle Operatic Society as a conductor whilst teaching at St Theodore's. He married Enid quite late in life, at the age of 53, and eventually moved to Gloucestershire with her, which is where I met him."

A former pupil of Nelson Grammar School, Mr Lovett was also a fine singer, as was his mother Elizabeth, and was fondly remembered by former pupils for putting on shows and musicals at St Theodore's.

One former protege, famous baritone John Rawnsley, said: "I was born and grew up at Colne in Lancashire and if as a child you showed a bit of musical talent you couldn’t in those days be raised in a better part of the country. The number of choral societies and amateur operatic societies who would scoop you up, hone your talent, and encourage whatever ambition you had was truly impressive.

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"I was doubly fortunate in that my local amateur operatic society was conducted by a young and gifted musician who taught music and the piano as his day job at a school in Burnley, and conducted operetta most evenings – he also conducted Colne Orchestra and latterly Pendle Opera!

"That man was Geoffrey Lovett and he and the man who directed some our shows, Harry Phillips, gave me a fantastic grounding in stage-craft which enabled me to go to music college and have the career as an opera singer that I’ve been fortunate enough to have.

"I first met Geoffrey in 1967 when I was involved with St Stephens Operatic Society in Nelson. He was also the conductor for St John’s Operatic Society and I had the pleasure of appearing with him in their production of ‘Hello Dolly’ (Harry Phillips directing again) in 1969.

"We became firm friends and I would regularly go to his house in Nelson for supper – always prepared by his lovely dear mother – and a singsong.

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"He was very good at friendship and had that rare talent of being the same with everyone, no matter how famous or important they were. He accorded the same level of warmth and interest in a stagehand or a noted soloist. When he stayed with me at Glyndebourne in 1977 he would attend the rehearsals for Don Giovanni and he became firm friends with all the cast, including Sir George and Lady Christie who owned and ran Glyndebourne Opera.

"And latterly, when he would attend performances at the Royal Opera House, I would entertain him at the Garrick Club before the performance, where his talent for making friends remained undiminished.

"I owe Geoffrey so much, and I will never ever forget him, always with a ready smile on his face and a fount of musical knowledge.

"He was a happy man who had a long and happy life. I can’t really believe he’s gone, he was always so alive. I’m sure his curiosity has led him to talk to someone else and he’s just in the next room."