Graham Lyons - a short biography
Graham Lyons was born in Hampstead, London in 1936. He started piano lessons at six and switched to clarinet at 13, inspired by the playing of Benny Goodman and a newly found passion for Jazz.
After National Service as a Radar technician with the RAF he read physics at Oxford but left to study bassoon and composition at the Guildhall School of Music in London.
For the next 20 years Lyons worked in three branches of musical activity: performing, composing and arranging, and teaching. As a performer, he more frequently worked 'behind the scenes' as a 'woodwind doubler' - that is, a musician playing a number of woodwind instruments and called upon to play any combination of them in many different styles of music - his instruments being clarinet, flute, saxophone and bassoon.
He composed and arranged mainly on the commercial side, for instance for TV advertisements, cabaret singers, pop recordings and dance bands. For many years he arranged popular melodies for BBC light orchestras. In 1981 he spent a year in New Zealand Television as a session musician and arranger.
Lyons taught woodwind instruments part-time in London schools for several years constantly composing suitable music for his students, many of which have been published. In 1980, he wrote 'Take up the Flute', 'Take up the Clarinet' and originated the 'Mixed Bag' series of woodwind ensembles, published by Chester Music. In 1984 He started his own music publishing business, Useful Music, printing educational woodwind music. Many of his compositions were selected for the syllabuses of British national instrumental music examinations. Total sales of his printed music albums exceed 350,000 copies.
By nature he is not content to accept things as they are. He has wide interests, in particular history and the sciences. Around 1970, having studied the history of the Second World War in some detail, he surmised that, for ideological reasons, the Soviet Union would be bound to present a different and, in many cases opposite, view to that of the West. His research culminated in the publication in 1976 in England of 'The Russian Version of the Second World War'. In 1981, the 'Russian Version' was published in the US, the Pentagon buying 5,000 copies. The strong message throughout the 'Russian Version' was that Soviet policy was defensive, not aggressive. This message may have softened the stance of the Pentagon hard-liners, in turn softening American policy towards Russia. A few years later, relations between America and the Soviet Union improved.
Teaching clarinet to hundreds of beginners in schools made Lyons realize how unsuitable the clarinet's design was for the majority of those who played it: namely, children. Student clarinets were, in essence, more cheaply made versions of professional clarinets, a fact which Lyons considered strange since, in every other sphere, the child's version of an object is always smaller and lighter than the adult model. So, with expert help, he spent many years on the development and production of a child-sized clarinet-based that would not entail a musical compromise, culminating in the Clarinéo.
In 1993 he pursued his general interest in science by enrolling as an undergraduate in the History and Philosophy of Science department at University College London. In 1998 he left London, and now lives in a small market town in North Yorkshire, composing, performing, and managing Nuvo Instrumental, the company formed to manufacture and market the Nuvo Clarinéo.