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The LCGSB School Song

"Floreat Lewesia"

Maurice Hobden

THE words of the school song, which seemed so corny to us schoolboys, were written by or attributed to Mr Bradshaw himself. Corny they may be, but it would require more skill than the average versifier can muster to create such a gem. The words were written in the first years of the school and some of the sentiments expressed turned out to be most prescient. We have no evidence that the words were ever significantly changed. It is perhaps surprising that he never added a verse referring to the Old Lewesians killed in the war, given NRB's deep feelings about the deaths of these young lads.

It would appear that there are two versions of the tune. The first was written by Mr Bowman who was the first biology teacher who also doubled as music master. Some who have heard this version describe the tune as dull and turgid; others disagree. At some later date, c. 1940, a livelier version appeared probably written by George Austin, who had been appointed as music master. Both versions have been used in recent times in the chapel at reunions causing problems for those only familiar with the other version!

We have no written version of the first tune but there are some older members who can play it from memory. It would be of interest if someone could get it down on paper. Gerald Sweatman has written the score of the later version from memory and has sent it for display on the website. You can examine his transcription and print it out if you wish.

The Record

Those with long memories will recall that, around 1949, NRB had the bright idea of having the school song recorded by the school "choir" and having copies made to be sold in aid of the Chapel Fund. These, of course, were the fragile old-style 78 rpm shellac disks.

There was no choir worthy of the name and certainly nothing that could produce the volume required for cutting a wax master. So George Austin had the unenviable task of dragooning about a hundred or more boys into an ad hoc choir and giving them the necessary coaching. He decided to use the III forms, whose voices had not quite broken, and VI forms, whose voice had. There was no fancy part-song - both groups sang the standard tune though probably an octave apart!

[This was not the only massed choir episode - one remembers endless hours practicing "Jesu joy of man's desiring", "Hark, hark, the lark at Heavens gate sings" and even (oh dreadful cacophony) "Hallelujah" for Speech Day or was it for the Carol Service ?]

Eventually the day dawned (16th November 1949) for the recording and we all trooped up to St. Mary's church hall, now called St Mary's Social Centre, on the Nevill Estate a few hundred yards NNW of Lewes prison. From what I remember it was a quite presentable modern brick building probably built in the late 1920's. Presumably the acoustics were deemed more suitable than the school hall and less likely to have extraneous noises.

A Cutting from the Sussex Gazette - November 1949


photo text

When this vast choir trooped in it was so cramped that it was difficult for us all to breathe in at the same time. In the centre aisle was mounted the disk cutting machine and the two sound engineers. I seem to remember singing "Floreat Lewesia" through many times, first as a warm-up, then for George Austin to iron out a few last minute blemishes and finally to cut several wax disks, warts and all. By the time we were finished we were all parched dry, drenched with perspiration and heartily sick of singing it. If anybody had suggested one more try I think there would have been a riot. By the time we returned to school some were near collapse with dehydration.

Whether many records were sold or any profit made I have no idea, but if any have survived I'm sure their owners must treasure them as a priceless. If you have one, try playing it to your grandchildren - it should be good for a laugh or two.

John Barton finds his Record !

An original copy of this Floreat Lewesia disk, described above, was found recently by John Barton in his attic and he has kindly lent it to us for transcription. We had hoped to have it professionally remastered, processed and enhanced, using the latest digital techniques, but the audio engineer that had agreed to do it backed out. Eventually we had it transcribed to tape and gave away a hundred of so copies to those OLs who made a donation to our funds.

These, of course, are not digitally processed to get rid of the blemishes -- most of which are from the recording process itself and the pressing of the disk. There are very few scratches on this particular record so the tapes reproduce the record "warts and all". They give a very authentic sound typical of the technology of that era.

Digital Edited Version

We have now produced a digitally edited version and it is now available on-line to anyone who wishes to download it. On the History index you can find a link to Floreat Lewesia that presents the complete recording of the song together with the words. There are five verses and choruses, sung by the boys themselves, with George Austin playing at a furious pace on piano with a cornet accompaniment in certain parts. Very atmospheric - I was there in 1949 and remember it well.

Other records

One of our members has a 78rpm record of the BBC broadcast of the LCGS Church Service on 25th October 1953. The record is 12 inch and was recorded by "Sound News Productions, 3 Clover Mews, London S.W.3". He believes it is one of a set recorded on this occasion. It is believed that NRB ordered a number of sets, but being rather expensive very few were sold. Just how these records were produced is not clear. Does anybody know anything about these records or have any ?