Leslie J. Newman - an appreciation

Les Newman died on All Saints Day from cancer, after a short spell in Newbury Hospital. Les was well known and well-loved by people from all walks of life. By profession he was a piano tuner and during his career has tuned pianos prior to Newbury's music occasions large and small.

He was also a fine musician and singer and during his life has enriched music-making throughout the town and district. From 1938 to 1954 he was a chorister at Newbury Parish Church, during which time he learnt to play the organ. One of his first organist's post was at the then newly rebuilt St. John's. I first met Les when I was a chorister at St. Mary's, Speenhamland and like countless before and after, must thank him for a long lasting introduction and appreciation of church music, not to mention the traditional thirst quenching pursuit so necessary after a strenuous choir practice!

There is much to reminisce about but space permits only snapshots. Besides church music, Les also enjoyed popular music and played either wind or piano in several local bands during the 1950s and 1960s. The names Gerry Bradford and Don Ward spring readily to mind. The sixties were a time for twentieth century church music and much experimentation. I well remember several occasions when Les brought members from his dance-band era to provide an authentic swing to Geoffrey Beaumont's Twentieth Century Folk Mass.

Les was also a keen sportsman, with a great depth of knowledge of cricket and football. Choir practice was often followed by a game of cricket in Victoria Park and when Speenhamland choir combined with Shaw choir for outings often a bat, ball and wickets were produced for a friendly match. Les was a keen member of the local organists' association and was for several years its chairman. Sometimes it was hard for Les to combine his love of sport and of the organ. We were at one Organ Congress in York when Les opted-out of the recital round giving football preference.

A further fond memory is the impressive way Les cared for his motor cars. His green Morris 1000 Traveller was a prime example with its woodwork lovingly polished. Before this Les progressed from motorbikes to one of the first bubble cars seen in Newbury and then onto a cream mini.

Robert F. Willis (date uncertain but before 20 November 1989)


Click HERE to hear Les singing the opening verse of "Lord of the Dance".

It was recorded on 6th April 1974 at our wedding at the Church of The Transfiguration, Sandbanks, Dorset. The organist is David Reynolds and the choir comprises of members of the St. Nicolas Newbury Church Choir and members of the Newbury & District Organists' Association.

Click on picture to ENLARGE.
Les is in the back row second from the right. His wife Brenda is in front of him and his daughter Valerie is on Brenda's right.

Les_Newmaan_at York.JPG (21888 bytes) 

Les at York 


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