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Joey Bethell tributes: ‘Music will carry memory’ after Sherborne pianist’s shock death

By Western Gazette - Sherborne  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

Tributes have been paid to pianist Joey Bethell who died suddenly last week. Picture by Scott Mains

Tributes have been paid to pianist Joey Bethell who died suddenly last week. Picture by Scott Mains

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Friends and family of a talented jazz musician from a village near Sherborne will be gathering next week to celebrate his life.

Former Gryphon schoolboy Joey Bethell passed away suddenly in Brighton on Monday, November 19. He was 27.

Tributes to the skilled pianist, whose family home is in Holnest, have been pouring in on social-network sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Local band The Little Victory posted a moving message to Mr Bethell on their Facebook page. It described him as a “beautiful person” and said: “Though many of us will never be able to match the incredible talent and immeasurable humility you relentlessly showed, you will live on in the music we play and the lives we lead.”

Mr Bethell’s talent on the piano was nurtured during his time at the Gryphon School and he developed under music teacher Ian Wright who was also a brilliant jazz pianist.

Advanced skills teacher at the Gryphon Non Davies, who was head of music when Mr Bethell was a pupil, said no school concert passed without a performance from the schoolboy.

She said: “Joey (or Nigel as he was known while at school) was an amazing student to teach. He was an exceptionally talented musician, who took every opportunity to play and perform the piano.

“Always full of fun, in and out of the classroom, he embraced the life of the music department as soon as he arrived from his primary school . Ian Wright, the second in the music department at the time, spotted Joey’s talent very early on.”

She said Mr Bethell formed a successful band with classmates when he was in Year 9. The group – made up of Ali Light on trumpet, Steve Parker on saxophone and Chris Cozens on drums – enjoyed local success playing in and around Dorset.

She added: “Words simply cannot express how much Joey will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his family at this exceptionally sad time.”

Jane Wood, of Oliver’s Coffee House in Sherborne, remembers him regularly playing at Woods Wine Bar in Yeovil which is owned by her uncle. She described him as a “legend” and said everyone who knew him was devastated by the news of his death.

She added: “We never really knew when he was coming in but a keyboard always materialised and he’d happily sit and play all night with whoever else was around. He’d just get lost in the music. He was a true gent and always had time to chat to all and sundry.”

Photographer Scott Mains knew the musician from playing gigs across the South West. He said he will be “greatly missed by a lot of friendly faces around the world”.

He added: “It’s hard to summarise how someone has made an impact in your life. There are many short stories of the good times, the few of the challenging times, but all too often the stories that have no beginning, nor end are the ones we look back upon fondly.”

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “A man in his 20s was found dead at an address in Westfield Crescent, Brighton, at around 8.30am on Monday, November 19.

“The man’s death is not considered suspicious and has been left with the coroner.”

A celebration of Mr Bethell’s life will take place at Yeovil Crematorium on Wednesday at 2.40pm.

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