A Tribute to Lucian Nethsingha (1936-2021) – By Roger F. Aldons (STC Chorister, 1955-1962)

A Tribute to Lucian Nethsingha (1936-2021) – By Roger F. Aldons (STC Chorister, 1955-1962)

Source:Thomiana – S. Thomas’ College Old Boys Association Australia OBA Melbourne – Newsletter – May 2021

It was with great sadness that we were informed of the death, on Friday 12th February 2021, of Lucian
Nethsingha. Lucian had been in poor health for a while, and latterly had been in a hospice in Cambridge. Our
thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Born in Colombo, Ceylon, in 1936, Lucian was educated at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, (STC) Ceylon (now
Sri Lanka). We, together with the Thomian family and Lucian’s friends around the world fondly remember, with
admiration and thanksgiving, Lucian Nethsingha, the extremely talented, successful Organist and Masterful
Trainer of Choristers. He was a gentle, humble loyal Thomian gentleman, in every sense of the word, and a
fellow Roy H. Bowyer Yin era chorister with many of us, and organist of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, Sri

He was far more than just a thorough gentlemen of the highest integrity and character, but also, in my view, was
very worthy of nomination and inclusion in any list of Thomian National Heroes of Sri Lanka, given his unique
heroic achievements in the field of Choral and Organ Church Music, unmatched by anyone from Sri Lanka to
Lucian deserved recognition and would be my nomination for such a list at the outset for his incredible, historycreating, monumental achievements as a professional musician – a superb choirmaster and organist, a status
attained through his dedication, determination, knowledge and sheer hard work in diligently studying his
academic subjects, particularly music, performing hours of instrumental practice and investing enormous effort
in harnessing (unlike many naturally talented sports people), developing and enhancing his tremendous gifted
natural talents, with which he was richly blessed from birth!
Father Yin discovered Lucian’s exceptional musical talent and pleaded with his good friend, Mrs Irene van der Wall
– a lovely lady in every sense of the word, also a very fine Sri Lankan musician, excellent concert pianist and piano
teacher – to take Lucian as a pupil to teach him to play the piano. Despite having a full book of students at the
time, she agreed to take this young man as a piano pupil, purely on Roy Yin’s enthusiastic and high
Lucian was, indeed, a very talented and naturally gifted musician who learnt to play the organ in the Chapel from
Father Yin, who held him in high regard. He is listed in the College records as one of the College organists. When
Lucian’s mother died, Father Yin’s high regard for him and respect for his family was apparent when he arranged
for the entire College Choir and servers to go to Lucian’s parents’ family home in Dehiwela (the neighbouring
suburb to Mount Lavinia) and walk, singing in procession following the hearse in the funeral cortege all the way
along the Galle Road to the Mount Lavinia cemetery.
The photo below is of the 1951-1952 School Choir of S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka),
where Lucian’s great journey in Church Choral and Organ music began. The young Lucian is seated at extreme
left in the middle row.

He was the first Sri Lankan and Thomian to successfully scale the great Everest-like heights of professional
choral and organ music appointments in the United Kingdom, despite the long UK and European history of
incredibly high standards of excellence and enormous competition amongst a huge local talent pool of so
many UK- and European- born, talented, very skilled and highly educated musicians working in the UK and
worldwide, where high quality instruments and facilities were, and still are, far better and readily accessible
than the very few available to him in Sri Lanka (Ceylon as it was known at the time).
Lucian Nethsingha (1936-2021) – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucian_Nethsingha
▪ Former Chorister and Organist at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, Sri Lanka under the
direction of Rev’d Roy H. Bowyer-Yin, Chaplain and Choirmaster (“Father Yin” and
“Cheena” as he was affectionately known at STC);
▪ Former Organ Scholar at King’s College Cambridge;
▪ Former Organist and Director of Music at St Michael’s College, Tenbury, U.K., 1959-1973
(King’s College Saint Michaels, more commonly known as St Michael’s College, was an
independent international boarding school located in Tenbury Wells Worcestershire,
England. The school specialised in teaching non-English language students. The school
closed on the 30th of June 2020, making all its staff redundant.)
▪ Former Organist, Master of the Choristers and Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, U.K.,
Lucian received his first opportunity to direct the STC Choir when Rev’d Roy Yin went on leave, as described in
Chaplain Rev’d Roy H. Bowyer Yin’s STC – Term 1 Chapel Notes Pages 2 & 3 – published in the College Magazine
in September 1955, in which he stated,
“On returning after five months’ leave, the Chaplain found himself deprived of the gratification of being
able to say that the Choir had deteriorated in his absence. On the contrary, it had noticeably improved,
thanks to the excellent work of Lucian Nethsinghe (sic) who, although he officially left college at the end
of the First Term, continued to play for all services and to conduct Choir practices up to the time of his
departure for England at the end of June. L.A. Nethsinghe (sic) must be both one of the most loyal and
most talented organists that the College ever had, and we wish him every success in the further studies
of music for which he has gone to England.”
In 1955, at Father Yin’s recommendation to Lucian and his parents, Lucian went to the Royal College of Music in
London, UK and studied with Ralph Downes and Herbert Howells. He then was awarded an Organ Scholarship
and studied music at King’s College, Cambridge, with Boris Ord and David Willcocks.
Lucian was then appointed to the plumb UK post of Organist and Master of the Choristers at St. Michael’s
College (SMC), Tenbury, Worcestershire, UK in 1959, succeeding Kenneth Beard, a post he held until 1973, when
he moved to Exeter Cathedral where he was Organist and Master of the Choristers for over 25 years until his
retirement. SMC made several broadcasts under Lucian’s direction on BBC and a terrific LP recording, ‘Sing
Joyfully’, issued in January 1965. (Argo ZRG 5423, LP). The outstanding review of this excellent recording in the
January 1965 edition of ‘The Gramophone’ summed up by saying ‘in short a winner.’ A description of which
Lucian was very proud. It can be viewed in full on this link: https://view.publitas.com/archive-of-…
His successor at St Michael’s, Roger Judd, described his distinguished predecessor as “a lovely, gentle man, and
a very fine organist and choir trainer. May he rest in peace.”
During his time at Exeter Cathedral the choir developed an international reputation and made its first foreign
tours. He inspired and nurtured generations of choristers and choral scholars, and took the daily worship of
Exeter Cathedral to new heights of musicianship. The choir made several recordings at Exeter Cathedral on the
Alpha label before Lucian retired in 1999 and moved to Cambridge where he spent the rest of his life with his
beloved family.
“For mine eyes have seen thy salvation”.
May Lucian Rest in Peace; May Light Perpetual shine upon him; and may he Rise Again in Glory!
Esto Perpetua!

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