Ludovic Stewart, Cambridge County’s Music Adviser who led a post-war renaissance in community music-making

Frida’s older brother worked tirelessly on the Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra – founded by Molly Gilmour and which is still running today.

In the early 1970s, Deryck Harvey of the Cambridge Evening News (I still call it that because that’s what it was when I had a paper round in the early 1990s) ran a series of profile pieces on individuals who were prominent in and around Cambridge. Now that the British Newspaper Archive has digitised its 1970s editions, keyword searches make it easier to pick out individuals who shaped post-war Cambridge. Ludovic Stewart, son of Hugh Fraser Stewart – Dean of Trinity College Chapel, and his wife Jessie, the local social reformer and activist, was one of them.

Mr Stewart came in for criticism when he came called for spending on guitars, citing that this new-fangled concept of ‘popular music’ was doing more for music education than the musical establishment of the time. I only discovered his comment from Mike Petty’s archives from Cambridge in the 1960s here. (See Mike’s extended back catalogue contents here).

In the end, Mr Stewart would be more than proved right – Cliff Richard having sold ***over a quarter of a billion records*** in his career – now in his eighth decade (having started in the late 1950s) making him one of the biggest selling musicians of all time.

Ludovic Stewart becomes an employee of Cambridgeshire County Council – joining Brinley Newton-John on the education payroll.

We know their paths crossed more than a few times, so they would have known each other fairly well. The father of the late Dame Olivia Newton-John was the Headmaster of the then Cambridge County High School for Boys – now Hills Road Sixth Form College, at a time when the institution was the responsibility of the County Council. Both being passionate musicians, it’s not surprising to see them mentioned in key roles for a performance at Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge. Note also later that year the presence of Anne Keynes as a soprano – she was the daughter of Lady Hester Adrian, the mental health care pioneer (we named a centre after her) who married the grandson of Florence Ada Keynes, Richard.

The running joke in Cambridge for decades has been that while the rest of the world has six degrees of separation, in Cambridge it is two. Or fewer. (This has implications for a city that has to decide whether it wants to be exclusive or inclusive in the future).

As spreading music was Ludovic’s vocation, then his vision for the future of Cambridge would have been inclusive by its very nature

Which also matched the political disposition of his families – not least those of his younger sister Frida who literally put herself in the firing line against the fascists in the 1930s, and returned to fight public service cuts from successive Conservative governments right up until her death in 1996. And yet she still found time to write. the history of music in Cambridge the town, published in 1980.

Above: Talented sister – Frida Stewart in youth and, as Frida Knight in the 1990s, after her marriage to the physicist Prof Basil Knight of the University of Reading at the end of the War.

Deryck Harvey’s profile of Mr Stewart was published in the Cambridge Evening News 01 Jan 1973 – so almost fifty years to the day! It reads as follows:

“The day that Ludovic Stewart, county music adviser, claimed that pop singer Cliff Richard had more to offer many young people than some school teachers, he made the headlines in newspapers all over the country.

“I got it in the neck for that,” he claims, unrepentant, “but he had good rhythm, good projection, and appealed to a great many children.”

Ludovic Stewart on Cliff Richard as a musician, 01 Jan 1973

“Mr Stewart, 64, the man behind the Schools’ Holiday Orchestra, whose performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel will be staged at The Guildhall, Cambridge on Thursday January 04 [1973], no more keeps. intouch with Mr Richard’s music than Mr Richard keeps in touch with his. But young people do. “The holiday orchestra” he explained, “now has more than 400 kids, I suupose. My job consists of involving as many people as possible in every form of music.


Mr Stewart, Old Etonian, former master at Harrow, returned to Cambridge when he was appointed county adviser in 1948. He lives in the Malting House, where he was born, opposite the Mill Pond, Newnham [the latter where Darwin College is today].

Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra

“It was the Gilmours, John and Mollie, who really founded it.” [See Chris Elliott’s piece in the Cambridge News here from 2017] “It started with a fireside chat at their home, Cory Lodge, at the Botanic Garden. They asked me to help them, and the authority took it on and miraculously were very generous in their subsidy.”

“The orchestra is a wonderful idea: it is open to all young people and children who would like to make music. Rehearsals and a performance are held during each school holiday. “It’s had its knocks for being non-selective, but the point about it is, there’s. no audition – and no fee. It functions for a week each holiday, and for about six hours a day.”


“There are two sessions in the summer. One of them is in exchange with the Heidelberg Youth Orchestra [Heidelberg, Germany and Cambridge became one of the earliest twinned towns following WWII, in 1957]. When I conduct a mixed group, the bad German is rather popular!” [The Stewarts were one of several prominent families whose children learnt a number of languages as part of their education – Hugh Fraser Stewart being a well-known linguist, and Frida whose command of French was that of a native speaker]. Hansel and Gretel will be played by a select orchestra because there is no opera pit in the Guildhall. “But we are doing a concert verion, with as many children as like to play, the following Sunday, informally”

“Mr Stewart has long been an advocate of professional musicians appearing with amateurs [Also the vision of Andrea Cockerton of We Are Sound in Cambridge], and he would like to see a nucleus of professionals working together in the area. “It was a dream”, he said. “and part of it has come true: I wanted to get the local authorities to employ peripatetic teachers around the schools, so that they could play in an opera orchestra in the evening – as I believe happens in Germany”

A dream realised

“It is now possible for a third of a Cambridge orchestra to be stiffened by local professional musicians. “This fact of amateurs and professionals playing together has been realised, although East Anglia has not become opera-minded sufficiently to build an opera house, or to float an opera company.” [It’s work in progress!!!]. “I had thought of getting a staff on the Burnham scale, which would include singers as well, who could sing in the schools during the day, and sing opera at night.

“Julia Jepps who came to Cambridge from the Carl Rosa company, will be a soloist with other guests, in her own production of Hansel and Gretel. “Another bit of the dream has come true at the Tech College [CCAT – now ARU], where they have got a strong professional staff and this super opera house. [Is he referring to the then newly-opened Mumford Theatre that opened in the early 1970s?]

“There was probably never any doubt that Mr. Stewart, sone of a modern languages don and “a rather distinguished cleric” at Trinity College, would return to Cambridge. He did so after having been a master at Harrow and having worked in the Air Force intelligence. [Similar to Brinley Newton-John after graduation – teaching, then enlisting in the RAF].


“I also had a year helping to revive music in Germany, which was fascinating. I think this is why I got so restless as a schoolmaster. I wanted to be in music.”

At home, music had always been part of the environment.

“My father [Dr Hugh Fraser Stewart] was president of the Cambridge University Musical Society [it’s still going], and had the privilege of giving hospitality to all the distinguished composers who came to conduct their work. Breaking off, Mr Stewart unearthed an old visitors book, and pointed to the signatures of Kodaly, Berg, Honneger, as well as Schweitzer and T.S. Eliot. The Malting House is an incredible place, extending far back from Newnham Road. “It belongs to myself and my four sisters, and I’m in the hot seat!” [Frida had moved into Park Parade, off Jesus Green in 1970 with her husband after the latter retired from his post at the University of Reading].


Mr Stewart had led the way from a large, open room at the back, to a small intimate living room on the first floor at the front.

“It’s a Quaker meeting house on a Sunday” he explained. “and a kindtergarden during the week. It serves me very well as a music room” His world is gloriously full of music, but when relaxing he also becomes a gardener. “And if I happened to be living in the Lake District, I would walk.”

He remembers that in his first operatic experiment in Cambridge saw his wife Joyce, deputy manager at Robert Sayle’s [The department store named after a Cambridge town hero of a previous generation, taken over by John Lewis in 1940, and subsequently renamed in the late 2000s despite local opposition], get together an operatic ensemble which won a competition with an act from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte”. Across the road at the Granta public house, he illustrated a point by selecting a classical item – “the Karelia” – on the juke box!” [The intermezzo being one of my favourite pieces of classical music – one that I think would make for a nice alternative wedding procession number!]


Ludovic Drumin Stewart (1908-1999), musician, local government officer, and teacher. He died less than a year before the new millennium arrived. When his passing was announced in 1999, long-serving councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith, now Church Warden at St Andrew’s in Chesterton praised Mr Stewart for what he had given to our city, and for the legacy that he left.

“Ludovic was a pioneer of many things we take for granted in music education in this country. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to him for his work and inspiration.”

Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith [Lib Dems – West-Chesterton, 1990 – 2012, Mayor of Cambridge 2011-12]

There’s a long overdue biographical study of his life and his impact on both our city and county waiting to be done. One for any young student looking for an extended project subject?

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