A popular musician who led numerous musical activities in Watford for over 30 years has died and those who he inspired remember the “very special times”.

Graham Garton (1929 – 2021) was a conductor and musical director of the Watford Philharmonic Society from 1967 to 1989 and over the years introduced a big selection of music for choir and orchestra.

A long-standing member of Watford Philharmonic Society John Malin said: “The Society’s traditional Christmas Concerts were always a high point and here we sometimes had as our soloist the beautiful soprano voice of Barbara Howson, Graham’s wife.

“These were very special times, as indeed was Graham’s final concert in April 1989 at St Alban’s Abbey with an inspired performance of Elgar’s “The Apostles”.”

Watford Observer: Conductor Graham GartonConductor Graham Garton

Born in Hull in 1929, Graham Garton moved to Lincoln with his family in 1937 and became a pupil at Christ’s Hospital School in the city, showing an early musical talent.

In 1946 he took up a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating in 1949.

Graham’s long association with Watford and the surrounding area began in 1953, when he was appointed assistant director of music at The Royal Masonic School for Boys in Bushey.

A year later, he was promoted to the post of director – a post he held until the school’s closure in 1977.

Watford Observer: Graham GartonGraham Garton

Mr Malin continued: “During this time, music flourished in the school with additional state-of-the-art facilities being built for the department and a number of boys learning instrumental, vocal and ensemble music.”

Following the Masonic School’s closure, Graham moved on to become director of music at St Margaret’s Girls’ School, Bushey with its Chapel Choir winning the “Voices in Concert” competition at the Royal Festival Hall in 1987.

In 1989, Graham moved to Bermuda and became music director of the Bermuda Philharmonic Society until 2000.

Graham still continued to maintain links with Watford Philharmonic, inviting members to join the Bermuda Philharmonic at their main concerts in the Anglican Cathedral of the islands’ capital Hamilton.

Watford Observer: Graham GartonGraham Garton

Returning to England, Graham and his family settled in Sleaford in Lincolnshire where he continued with various musical activities.

He came back to Watford on many occasions as the society’s conductor Emeritus and in 2015 he attended a performance of his own composition “Magna Carta Cantata” conducted by the society’s current musical director, Michael Cayton as part of the local celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta.