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Memorial service for an inspiring teacher

A memorial service is to be held for Derek Watmough, a consummate musician and teacher who lived in Crowborough for many years.

Photo of Derek Watmough MBE at the piano. Mucusian and Crowborough teacher.

An extremely talented pianist, Derek became a teacher and taught music in High Wycombe, and Tunbridge Wells before coming to Crowborough as Head of Music in the early 1970s. He retired from Beacon Community College in 1992.

He was Music Director of Royal Tunbridge Wells Choral Society for 30 years as well as holding the same post with Mid-Sussex Sinfonia and conducting the Royal Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra. He was a much sought after pianist, performing with Sussex Camarata and the Little London Trio. In 1992 Derek was awarded the MBE for services to music.

Derek was the accompanist to Crowborough Choral Society from the 1990s until 2016. He took part in all concerts as pianist or singer. He had encyclopedic knowledge of music, a wonderful wit and could improvise anything on the piano. Derek would always cheerfully help any singer.

Colin Moore, Founder and Music Director of Crowborough Choral Society until 2017, said:

Derek was the most wonderful musical colleague and we shared a tremendous partnership. He supported the Choral Society in all its activities.

Andrew Lee who was a student at the school in the 1980s:

I was far from academically gifted, and struggled with the rest of my lessons, but I did love music, and somehow, he saw something in me that was worth nurturing.

Mr Watmough would let me sit in the music storage cupboard at break and lunch times, where I’d play the guitar or make sure the instruments were all polished, strung and cared for, or just listen to music on the CD player. He would often put his head around the door if he heard me in there, and we’d chat, and sometimes he’d invite me into the class and would accompany me on piano while I played guitar.

He was a kind, gentle, and very funny man, and I’ll never forget his kindness in seeing me as a person who could be engaged if the right ‘hook’ was found, rather than expressing frustration or disgust with my perceived unintelligence.

I failed miserably at exams and so on, but I later ended up being quite successful by following my passions. I’ve played in bands that have toured and played all over the world, and my recent solo album is dedicated to his memory.

A few months before he died, I was able to phone him and tell him how much impact he had had on my life, if I can do for others as he did for me, I will have lived well.

Rest in Peace, Mr Watmough.

The memorial service is to be held on Wednesday 25th September at 1.30pm at All Saints Church.

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