Eulogy for Stephen Donald John Martin 17.10.46 -12.9.15
Steve would have been thrilled to see so many of you turn up for his farewell. He always loved a party! He also hated long speeches, so I have tried to condense it down to the essentials – this was difficult because he had so many achievements.
Steve was born in Sydney on Oct 17 1946 to parents Marjorie and John Martin. He was 10 years younger than this brother Colin and almost 12 years younger than his sister Clarissa, who played a large part in raising him in his early years in the suburb of Pennant Hills.
Apart from some early piano lessons he came late to his instrument the double bass when in his fourth year at Normanhurst Boys High the headmaster forbade him to waste any more time with musicals. Not to be deterred Steve made a tea chest bass and formed a band.
After they played a the school dance, he was approached by an enlightened music teacher with an offer to use a real double bass that the school had just acquired. The teacher approached him again and asked if Steve would like to have lessons from a teacher he knew at the Sydney Conservatorium. Steve jumped at the chance and that teacher turned out to be Charlie Grey who was then the principal bass with the Sydney Symphony! Steve had embarked on his musical career!
Later when he studied full-time at the Conservatory, he subsidized his tuition by playing jazz around the clubs in Sydney, ending up playing Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday morning with a top band in the new North Sydney Leagues Club.
We were married in May 1970. Almost immediately Steve flew off to Osaka to play at Expo with The Australian Youth Orchestra. The first of many overseas trips with various orchestras.
Upon his return he was offered a place in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) for their North American Tour and the following year was offered a full-time rank and file position. I joined him in March 1971 after completing my Art Teaching Degree.
In 1972 we bought our first home in North Carlton and our son, Angus was born. Two years later Breon arrived.
Steve was doing extra work all over Melbourne, playing for his friends Richard Dival and George Dreyfus as well as doing session work on bass guitar. He was rarely home.
After we spent a couple of Christmas's in Hobart at Summer Schools run by Jan Sedivka, Steve auditioned for the Principal Double Bass job with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) and when he was accepted we moved down here at the beginning of 1977. His intention was to stay here and then move on to bigger and better things. However we both fell in love with Tasmania and Steve in particular with the TSO, which he found to be a young and vibrant orchestra compared to the MSO.
Steve was still ambitious. In 1980-81 he took a year off from the TSO and we spent a year living in the country in Northamptonshire in U.K. with our now three small children. Elise having been born in 1978. Steve free-lanced in various orchestras and traveled to London regularly to play in The Royal Albert Hall and Festival Hall. In between we holidayed in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland and even took our little Renault across the channel to France and Holland. We had a great time.
Whist we were away Bill Hennessy formed The Tasmanian Symphony Chamber Players (TSCP), and as Principal Bass, Steve was asked to join them on our return. When Barbara Gilby became Concert Master of the TSO, she took over as leader of TSCP.
In the late 80's Steve took over the management of TSCP and immediately launched into a touring program. He then suggested they do a recording of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and approached the Governor to do this in the Ballroom of Government House. He employed Peter Taplin as sound producer and George Goerss as engineer. Geoffrey Lancaster conducted from the Harpsichord.
Getting the recording accepted by Polygram record's CEO proved difficult. Steve was told there was no call for another recording of The Four Seasons. However Steve persisted, and following a very successful concert at the historic Royal Tennis Club in Hobart which was broadcast nationally, The Chamber Players were asked to perform at The Mitchell Library in Sydney.
At that concert Steve invited the CEO of Polygram, which was to become ABC Classic, along and presented him with a copy of the recording at the conclusion of the concert. Next morning Steve received a call to meet and the deal was done.
After rave reviews in Australia, London and New York, "The Four Seasons" was nominated for the Aria Award and won. Steve always regarded this as one of his greatest achievements.
Not one to rest on his laurels he organised a second recording entitled "18th Century Virtuoso String Music" the following year and performed a very successful concert in Robert Morris-Nunns award -winning shearing shed in the Midlands.
Around this time he organised another absolutely amazing event down Mount Lyall Mine, following a chance meeting with a relative of the mine manager, at a fundraising event we were attending. It was on the front page of all three Tasmanian papers. Steve borrowed the Theatre Royals grand piano for the event and it was moved by truck to Queenstown and taken to a large cavern a kilometer underground. The piano tuner had to travel across from Hobart as well.
The whole audience of 400 were bused underground and supplied with new hardhats for the concert, which was attended by the governor, premier and many other politicians. Another huge coup for Steve.
A couple of years later he was asked to do it all again for the centenary of the mine, but since The Chamber Players had broken up by then he did it with the Jazz group Moment's Notice he was playing with at that time, with Don Burrows as the front man. For this concert we were flown in for the day in two small planes and dignitaries flew in from all around Australia!
In the early 90's Steve also presented a series of three jazz concerts in vineyards around the state each Easter with "Moments Notice" and a frontliner from the mainland.
In 1992 He embarked on another adventure with the formation of an organization called "Virtuosi Tasmania". Unlike The Chamber Players he set it up with a committee to help him as the manager and artistic director and drawing players from all members of the TSO, not just strings. Virtuosi has been going 23 years this year and with the support of players we on the committee hope to continue as we have a very loyal following throughout Tasmania.
Steve would have wanted me to mention other highlights of his career: playing on The Isle of Mann in the 70's with 100 bassists; playing the Bottisinni Duo with world famous bassist Gary Karr in the 90's, but also playing with Michael Fortescue for a number of Tom Samek's Game Clubs - what fun times they were. And then there was Steve's wonderful 50th Birthday party which he and Tom also organised. Where to stop?
Apart from the music, Steve liked getting out there in the wilderness, whether it be fishing, walking or kayaking. Steve loved the company of all his friends in the Flytiers Club and The Hobart Walkering Club, and we have had wonderful adventures bareboating with our friends Pieter and Kay since they moved here in 2006.
In his last few weeks in Palliative Care Steve's spirits were raised when numerous friends came in and visited him, a number of old friends flying in from Sydney and Melbourne for a day or two. Eleven friend's came in and played to him and his health improved enough that he was able to eat again, and gained enough strength to go out in his wheelchair for lunch in the sunshine. Finally, the weekend before he died he had four wonderful days at home, including Father's Day, when Angus wheeled him down to the waterfront. He had not been home since his stroke on the 7th July. He was thrilled, and we were so glad to have had this extra unexpected time with him.
He wanted to pass on his love and gratitude to all his family and friends. We his family are immensely proud of him and miss him enormously. Rest in Peace Steve.
Dianne, Angus and Breon.
Vale Stephen Martin
The loss of Steve has left me impoverished. He was a true and cherished friend, who considerably enriched my life.
I first met Steve as a teenager more than fifty years ago. My first recollection is of a bush dance in a church hall in the leafy Sydney suburb of Beecroft. There was Steve with the band playing a bass line with tea chest, stick and string.
I could not resist his charm even then. My recorder became his which he would play in a packed, peak hour, Sydney red-rattler train - a ready, if captive audience! To my parents dismay my portable radio gramophone became his - he convinced me, as a music student his needs were greater than mine.
We went to the opera together. I stayed late into the night with him in some smoke filled jazz cellar in Kings Cross where finally, a jazz group there, played a motive Steve had written with variations. Steve was eighteen.
He married Dianne and I was his best man at the wedding but as the years rolled by we went our different ways. Soon he was away travelling to far off places playing music while I wore a white laboratory coat and surrounded myself with Bunsen burners and test tubes. We saw less of each other as he and Dianne moved to Melbourne and then to Hobart to play with his beloved Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO). We caught up from time to time as the orchestra came to Angel Place in Sydney and there was that time when the TSO Chamber Players played Vivaldi's Four Seasons in Sydney's Mitchell Library. I'm sure you all know the outcome Steve achieved from that adventure.
Once visiting Hobart Steve took me to Meadowbank Estate to hear a chamber music concert, an octet which he had organised. It was a fabulous concert as was the post concert socialising at the home of one of the musicians. I came to realise what a great lifestyle was to be had in Tasmania.
Moving here nine years ago we had barely settled in when Steve suggested I should become secretary to his Virtuosi Tasmania: "Nothing to do" he said, "it will be fun". We arrived at the AGM set around a picnic table in the back yard of a former Tasmanian Premier; a magistrate on my left, and all around professionals and academics. What had I let him talk me into now? Where and how did Steve know all these people? Just how many friends did he have, I wondered.
"Nothing to do" filled Kay's and my retirement with hours and hours behind our computers; making lots and lots of telephone calls and much travelling, seeking out concert venues across regional Tasmania, all in an effort to keep pace with Steve's many and varied ideas. Till illness took its hold, Steve managed some five or so chamber music concerts a year each spread across some four venues over a weekend across the State; with the TSO, he twice toured the TSO Chorus; recorded five CDs and put together the biennial Coal Valley Chamber Music Festival not to mention his constant involvement with jazz. He had further ideas for Virtuosi Tasmania some of which may now never be realised.
There was much more to Steve than music. We enjoyed bush walking together on Mt Wellington (kunanyi), Mt Field and on the highlands to his special place, Christies Creek. He taught me to love the highlands describing it "as if Japanese monks had come down and bonsai'd the landscape". He walked the highlands with his friend Stewart and with Dianne and friends walked the Milford and Abel Tasman tracks of New Zealand. He walked with the HWC, and enjoyed the Toddler's Toddle walks with the grand children, Jinwoo, Edward and Simon.
It was Steve's idea to get kayaks. Our favourite times was to pack them with camping gear and paddle to those secluded spots across lakes and lagoons to fish, walk and relax. I'm saddened we'll no longer be together, camped on the sandy spit of Southport Lagoon living of a harvest from the sea; oysters, mussels and salmon. He sure knew how to catch fish.
Steve convinced us to charter a yacht and sail the Whitsunday Islands. We had no sooner anchored at Nara Inlet when out came his fishing line. A nibble turned out to be a bite and before we realised what was going on he had climbed over the rail into the inflatable dingy and was being towed up and down and around the inlet. The fish determined to get away; Steve determined to have him for dinner. The fish eventually won leaving Steve with a 100m or so of stretched, twisted, tangled useless fishing line. We chartered yachts in the Andaman Sea and out of New Caledonia, always with Steve's line trawling from the stern.
Even as a teenager Steve liked to swim, be it skinny dipping in the phosphorescent waters of Apple Tree Bay at midnight or much later off the beaches of Maria Island or in a full wet suit in the Derwent. If there was an opportunity to swim Steve took it. Regardless the conditions, he would always tell us the water was "beautiful".
Steve, you enriched our lives with your positive approach - with your determination to realise your ideas and dreams. We survive you, my friend, better for your memories and better for the examples you have shown on how to live life to the full.
Rest In Peace, mate.
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