Stella Lightman

Stella Lightman

24th October 1928 - 1st March 2021

Our musical community - with equal emphasis on both words - has suffered a devastating loss with the death of Stella Lightman: she initiated the Cardiff U3A Recorder Group in 1999, which has met, played and performed regularly since then, and in the years before that she and her late husband, Ivor, hosted weekly musical evenings at their Lisvane home. Despite her diminutive frame she played the bass recorder until her late 80s because nobody else in the group could, only moving to the alto recorder when the bass became too heavy for her to play comfortably, and then only when new members joined to whom she could safely pass on the bass part.

Music was an ever-present feature of Stella’s life; she was steeped in music from her early childhood in 1930s London. Her parents, a pianist mother and a violinist father, were brought together by music; young Stella and her brothers learned the piano; she and Ivor, also a pianist, were brought together by music. And as many of you will know, they attended every public concert they could, and were regular fixtures at St David’s Hall, always the same seats, overlooking the stage, close to the orchestra. In her later years she would play with equal pleasure both classical pieces and those old-time singalong numbers with which she entertained the residents of Ty Enfys Care Home every Tuesday afternoon. Ty Enfys remained a place very close to her heart, where both Ivor and, later, his brother, had been residents. It is our intention to commemorate her life by playing an annual concert at Ty Enfys in her memory and in celebration of her contribution to our musical community.

It was, then, Stella’s love of music and of people which illuminated the lives of those with whom she came into contact. Indeed, a number of us in the U3A Recorder Group joined because of Stella’s personal encouragement, and, until recently, we used to meet in her front room, enjoying the hospitality and warmth of welcome (and, it must be said, of temperature!) which made those sessions so friendly, so engaging and humane, and which somehow welded us more closely together as a little musical community. Despite the wide disparity of the personalities, backgrounds and musical experience within the group, we have happily sustained a mutually supportive and collaborative ethos which stems from the unspoken, unifying and generous-spirited influence of Stella’s presence, and her instinct for inclusivity.

Members of the U3A Recorder Group have, of course, shared stories about Stella recently, all emphasising her independent spirit, her determination to live her life to the full after the tragedy of the death of her husband of 60-odd years, her kindness (and her problems replacing printer cartridges using a chisel!). Corrie Weaver, who is now the longest-serving member of the group, has told us about the early days of the Recorder Group, describing very movingly Stella’s unwavering friendship and generosity to all over the decades, and her commitment to communal music-making, though it’s fair to add that she had, in addition to her gentleness and compassion, very determined, clear-sighted, deeply-held and fiercely independent political (with both small and large p) views, and she would wholeheartedly enter any discussion of matters of social, cultural or philosophical issues. Stella remained a wide and critical reader all her life, and loved to exchange opinions on what she read. Trained as a teacher, she maintained a lifelong belief in the importance of education, choosing to work with disadvantaged children in the poorest areas of London, which is why, in consultation with Brian, her son, we donated her collection of recorders to a local charity dedicated to bringing music education to disadvantaged children. She would certainly have approved.

Stella had a humanity and compassion which were rooted in her childhood experience of living in a marginalised yet warm and tight-knit refugee community of Jewish people in London during the uncertain and troubled years before and during the Second World War. It is that warmth, that humanity and that compassion which we will most miss.

P S If you have not had the pleasure of knowing Stella – or even if you have - there is a wonderful video from about 10 years ago of her talking about her life, about music and about her childhood. This is the link:

Provided by Martin Gordon of the Recorders Group