All Saints singer Melanie Blatt joins tributes to legendary primary school music teacher David Joyner
Former Fitzjohn's teacher once lived at Windsor Castle
13 January, 2017 — By Tom Foot
David Joyner died on December 30
ALL Saints singer Melanie Blatt has paid tribute to a primary school music teacher known for inspiring generations of children in Camden after her former school announced he had passed away.
Ms Blatt – whose group sold more than ten million records – told the New Journal David Joyner was the “first person to encourage and inspire me to sing” when she was a young girl at Fitzjohn’s School in Hampstead.
Mr Joyner, a professor and rare talent who sang at royal ceremonies and in major opera houses around the world, taught for more than 30 years at the school in Fitzjohn’s Avenue.
He died in the Whittington Hospital on December 30, aged 75.
David Joyner on his wedding day, with wife Cathy
His name is often cited by successful musicians and singers whose first taste in music was down to Mr Joyner.
From her home in Ibiza, Ms Blatt said: “David was an amazing teacher, he made music such an important part of my education. He was the first person to encourage and inspire me to sing. He will always be a part of my history and I’m forever grateful. I send all my love to his family.”
Vashti Hunter – the first British cellist to win the coveted Prague Spring music award – has also credited Mr Joyner with helping to spark her interest.
“I was so lucky. I know I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities with a different primary school. David Joyner was just he most inspiring person. It was cool to be a musician and learn instruments,” she said.
Former pupils at Fitzjohn’s remember Mr Joyner for bringing a unique rhythm to their childhood years. But his wife Cathy Joyner, who started at the school in the same year as him, 1971, and later became headteacher, said his life was about was “so much more than school music”.
She said: “He was born in Leicester and his father was a military bandsman. They all sang in choirs, and they soon saw that David’s skill was to play songs without any form of music. People used to say he might not be the best singer, but he is the best musician – he had perfect pitch, you could hum a tune and he would just play it. Sickening, really.”
Between 1965 and 1967, Mr Joyner lived inside Windsor Castle “rubbing noses with the royals” while performing ceremonies in the chapel at major events. After leaving Windsor he came to London and went
on to sing for “anything you can name”, Cathy said. “He was a singing coach at the North London music centre, he did films for the old Inner London Education Authority, voice production work for BBC television and ended up a professor at the Guildhall School of Music. He lectured all over the country. He was even on Tokyo television at one point.
Melanie Blatt found fame with All Saints
“He came to the school because he had a fascination for children’s singing – he thought everybody could, even if they said they couldn’t hit a note. Music was his passion – and he wanted to pass that passion on to children,” said Ms Joyner.
She remembered a “charming, outgoing, extremely good-looking” David, who had “so many interests”, adding: “He loved sport, football, art, architecture, churches, cathedrals – all genres of music – politics. His greatest love was walking – he would go and walk around the whole of the Isle of Wight each year.”
One of the Fitzjohn’s crowning moments came when the class of 1990 aced a national choral competition in Winchester Cathedral, seeing off traditional performances from elite schools with Mr Joyner’s own composition, Friendly Beasts, which mingled noises of donkeys, cows, sheep, camels and doves. “It became a kind of anthem of the school,” said Cathy.
Mr Joyner was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a decade ago and had been admitted to the Whittington Hospital five weeks before his death, following a fall in a care home, later dying of aspiration pneumonia. A funeral date has yet to be arranged.
Ms Joyner said the Whittington and the care home had been “fantastic” throughout, adding: “He still played music in the care home until around two years ago when he lost the ability to play. They tried to get him on the piano and he just got up immediately. They say music is the last part of the memory that goes, which is why in so many homes they sing along with the old songs.”
Mr Joyner is survived by his wife Cathy and sons Jules, 40, and Adrian, 37.