I first met John Veale in the summer of 1989 after I had had the very good fortune to meet his daughter, Sarah, whom I subsequently married. John and I got on very well especially as we had shared experiences in attending the same university, an interest in astronomy, a similar political and philosophical outlook and admiration for particular composers – especially Beethoven and Shostakovich. However our relationship was cemented when I was presented with an enormous cup of tea. This not only contained John’s own brew but for some reason a large number of the leaves as well. Not wanting to strike a discordant note I stoically drank it all avoiding as many of the leaves as possible.

1989 was in the middle of John’s renaissance as a composer although it was only after his death that his correspondence revealed the full extent of the underlying battles that he had with the musical establishments – both local and national – to get his music performed. Had the BBC shown more interest after its broadcast of his violin concerto in 1986 his major works, I am certain, would be part of the standard repertoire.

This is just a brief biography and can only hint at the underlying tragic theme that runs through his life – from his relationship with his parents, his early promise as a composer, the marginalisation of his music, the sterile years and to the later blossoming that was still not fully recognised. However, John was a man driven by music who kept true to what he felt was the essence of music and maintained his integrity to the end.

This is not an academic study so the quotations used have not been sourced. However all quotations are from his letters, articles written by or about him and from radio interviews.


Roy Harris (1951)
JV is a young man of genuine talent and vigorous intellect.


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