Terence Pamplin

Musical-instrument polymath
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The Independent Online

In the world of music and musical instruments, it would be difficult to find someone who was as versatile and so accomplished as Terence Pamplin. He played both modern and baroque violin, and all the viols, and was a qualified teacher for many others, including the guitar, flute and saxophone. He was also an outstanding craftsman who contributed greatly to the development of musical- instrument making in Britain.



Terence Michael Pamplin, musician and musical-instrument maker: born Worcester Park, Surrey 30 May 1941; Lecturer, Musical Instrument Technology, London College of Furniture (later London Metropolitan University) 1972-73, Senior Lecturer 1977-84, Head of Department 1984-93, Marketing Manager, Sir John Cass Faculty of Art and Design 1993-94, Senior Academic Turtor 1995, Reader in Musical Instrument Technology 1996-2004; marketing/ production director, Arnold Dolmetsch 1973-77; married 1969 Elizabeth Webb (two daughters); died Newark, Nottinghamshire 24 April 2004.



In the world of music and musical instruments, it would be difficult to find someone who was as versatile and so accomplished as Terence Pamplin. He played both modern and baroque violin, and all the viols, and was a qualified teacher for many others, including the guitar, flute and saxophone. He was also an outstanding craftsman who contributed greatly to the development of musical- instrument making in Britain.

Pamplin was born in Worcester Park in Surrey in 1941 and left school at 15 without any qualifications. But his main interest at school had been woodwork; at 14 he built a garden shed whilst the other boys were making key-holders.

When still a teenager he developed an interest in music, taught himself to play the guitar and took lessons on the violin. He played in an orchestra with the guitarist John Mills, his friend and co-founder of the Nonsuch Guitar Society. When he was 14 he set up his own Maryland Skiffle Group in which he played the Tea Chest Bass. (The group was named recently in a book on the early history of skiffle and as a result Pamplin arranged for them to play on the television programme The Big Breakfast.) He also made several appearances on television as a judge in The Great Egg Race. As part of the programme he made musical instruments and a gramophone out of household rubbish which were set as tests for the competing teams.

On leaving school he started work at Baldrey's, who sold sheet music and records and carried out piano repairs in a room behind the shop. He spent over 10 years there, during which time he learned how to repair pianos and became a qualified piano tuner - a skill he retained and practised until his death.

In his spare time he set up a dance band, the Dave Stuart Five, with Dave Taylor and Stuart Megarry who soon were much in demand for local social events. When Pamplin married Elizabeth Webb in 1969, Megarry was his best man. The group also played for a combined celebration of the Pamplins' twin daughters' 30th birthday and Terry's 60th.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Terry Pamplin's education is that the opportunity to develop his many talents came relatively late. Nevertheless, all through the years of studying and acquiring his various degrees, he held full-time employment in branches of musical-instrument making.

He studied at the London College of Furniture and in 1967 graduated in the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology. In 1971, at Strathclyde University, he was made Industrial Training Officer. The following year he took a Diploma in Management Studies at Hatfield Polytechnic Business School, and in 1976 graduated in Business Studies and Marketing at Middlesex Polytechnic. In the 1980s he turned from making and management to studying music by way of the violin and all the viols. He took an LTCL degree at Trinity College of Music in 1983 and an LRAM at the Royal Academy of Music in 1985. He then went on to take a Research Supervisor's Course at the London Guildhall University and ended up with a PhD at Kingston University in 2000.

It would be impossible to list every enterprise in which Pamplin was involved. From 1965 until his death, he was successively Factory Manager at Monington & Weston, musical-instrument makers, Training and Management Adviser to the Furniture and Instrument Industry Training Board, Lecturer in Musical Instrument Technology at the London College of Furniture, marketing/production director of Arnold Dolmetsch, makers of early musical instruments, and Reader in Musical Instrument Technology at London Metropolitan University (as the London College of Furniture became).

Another of his interests was as chairman of the Tom Jenkins Trust, set up by Jenkins's widow, Michelle, when she auctioned his Stradivarius violin to provide an annual award for a student maker.

Pamplin was President of the National Early Music Association and a junior warden of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Their work in assisting young musicians was very close to his heart. He had great plans for when he was to take over as Master in two years' time.

His interest in performing music - ranging from early medieval to jazz - never waned and he specialised in the playing of early stringed instruments. He researched the history and performance of the baryton, an early bowed-stringed instrument with sympathetic strings and similar in size to the cello. His knowledge of his subject was encyclopaedic.

For indoor recreation he would play trio sonatas with friends and outdoors he was an inveterate hill-walker who loved the countryside. (He and his wife first met on a marathon walk.)

Only three weeks before his death Terry Pamplin had delivered a paper in Japan. On 24 April he had given a lecture in Newark in Nottinghamshire and was waiting on the platform for his train back to London when he collapsed and died. A friend remarked that Terry always said that the stress of waiting for a late train would be the death of him. Ironically, this one was on time, but he died before he was able to get on to it.

Margaret Campbell

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