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Jazz flute featured on TV’s Mr Benn and The Beatles’ Penny Lane auctioned

The moon rises behind a statue of the Beatles on Penny Lane in Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)
The moon rises behind a statue of the Beatles on Penny Lane in Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

Britain’s pre-eminent jazz flute player, who was best known for playing on The Beatles track Penny Lane and on the children’s TV programme Mr Benn, will have his collection of instruments sold at auction this month.

Ray Swinfield, who died in October 2019 age 79, played with a host of music stars including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and Liza Minelli.

He provided the flute on The Beatles’ classic 1967 hit single Penny Lane.

Many will know his work from repeats of the much-loved 1970s BBC children’s television programme Mr Benn, which featured his playing in each of the 13 episodes, including its famous theme tune.

Swinfield’s Gemeinhardt piccolo flute, which can be heard in Mr Benn and Penny Lane, is just one of 48 flutes and woodwind instruments owned by the late musician that will go under the hammer at specialist auctioneers Gardiner Houlgate in Wiltshire.

The sale, on behalf of Swinfield’s wife Lindy Swinfield, will include a range of flutes, saxophones, clarinets, instrument mouthpieces and musical scores from her husband’s 50-year career.

The Gemeinhardt piccolo flute is expected to fetch between £300 and £400, and a solid silver Haynes flute, also heard on Penny Lane, could reach between £1,800 and £2,500.

The Beatles
The Beatles in 1967 (PA)

A rare silver Brannen-Cooper flute is expected to bring in between £4,000 and £6,000.

The entire collection is valued at £31,000.

Auctioneer Jamie South said: “While never a household name, most people will almost certainly have heard Ray’s music on television, film scores, pop singles and with the jazz greats.

“He was a musician’s musician.”

Born in Australia, Ray Swinfield moved to the UK in 1964 aged 25 and went on to perform and record in the country for 44 years.

He accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett, played with jazz orchestras including Count Basie’s, worked as a studio musician and appeared on stage with his own band as well as accompanying other performers.

He worked on dozen of television shows including Strictly Come Dancing, and as part of the orchestra for Top of the Pops.

Swinfield was forced to give up playing in 2008, six years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His final television performance was on the BBC1 chat show, Parkinson.

The auction will take place at Gardiner Houlgate on Friday June 17, and the collection will be available for viewing from June 13 to 16.