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John Mewburn Levien

1863 – 1953
Baritone, Teacher of Singing, Author and Musicologist

JML, that is how he always signed himself, will be remembered for his outstanding contributions to the art of singing. His academic lectures and his scholarly editing of works on singing have left its mark on future generations. Notwithstanding his link with such great musical personalities as Manuel Garcia and Sir Charles Santley, John Mewburn Levien started his musical career in Liverpool where he achieved much recognition. On the advice of distinguished baritone Charles Santley and the organist T W Best he commenced his serious singing studies with H C Deacon and the legendary singing teacher Manuel Garcia; he studied also with Vannuccini (of Florence) and Salzedo (of Paris.) After some years he moved to London where he obtained high recommendations for his method of voice production from Sir Morell Mackenzie.  He sang at the Crystal Palace concerts under the late Sir August Manns, and at the principal London concert halls, eventually making the decision to devote himself entirely to teaching.  Levien held teaching posts at The Guildhall School of Music and a professorship at Trinity College of Music. Among his many other activities he was Hon Secretary of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Levien contributed articles on the history, technique and theory of the practice of singing  to the musical press and was author of several books on these subjects. His musical activities covered a wide range as did his writings. A look at the index for The Musical Times reveals that he contributed articles on W T Best, Organs, and many other musical subjects together with first hand contributions on the many famous singers he had observed and knew personally.

One of the things of which he was most proud was his association with Sir Charles Santley whom he held in the highest respect. Santley had guided his career and became his mentor. In Levien’s lecture “Sir Charles Santley,” given before the Society of Women Musicians and afterwards at the Violincello Club in the London School of Violincello, Levien tells of Santley’s great generosity towards him. Santley and Levien were both students of Manuel Garcia, a fact that was to result in their being very close friends for the remainder of Santley’s long life.

Staff, Article. "Other Liverpool Fixtures - Mr J Mewburn Levien." London Musical Courier, 23 March.1912: page No 150.

L’Epine, Geoffrey.  Who’s Who in Music.  Boston: Small,Maynard and Company, 1913

Levien, J Mewburn. Sir Charles Santley, London:  Novello, 1930

Levien, J Mewburn. The Garcia Family, London:  Novello, 1932

Levien, J Mewburn, Impressions of W.T. Best (1826-1897) organist at St. George's Hall, Liverpool, the Handel Festival. London: Novello, 1942

Levien, J. Mewburn. The Singing of John Braham., London: 1945

Bloom, Eric. Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 5th Edition,  London: Macmillan, 1954 (Levien articles as JML)

Written by Cheniston K Roland