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Silas Marlowe


Tales of Tuba Terrorism

The Tuba. Once described as the lower bowel of music, this most comedic of brasses came into existence in the mid 19th century, making it one of the newer instruments for the orchestral ensemble -- or say, a small gathering of musicians in a pub.


Think of our quaint, idyllic English village surrounded by lush green fields, wildflower meadows, sweeping views…..


And then imagine the lowest of known orchestral frequencies parping down the hill from the Lion, rumbling over the pond, echoing through the bowl of Finchingfield green, from late at night to the early hours of the morning -- depending on when the pub shuts.


The horror! The audacity! But what’s the history?

Christopher ‘Cookie’ Cantworp was born in Japan in 1908, son of the British Ambassador.


After his father’s tenure ended in 1913 the family stayed on, fully assimilated into the Japanese way of life -- although the teenage Cookie was something of a tearaway and no stranger to the Consular authorities. Hence his subsequent education was subject to strong militaristic influences- and after conscription his bilingual abilities helped him rise swiftly through the ranks.

The Japanese military, keen to develop an early warning system which would alert them to airborne threats, seconded Cookie to its War Tuba Division, tasked with further developing this early form of radar.

Christopher 'Cookie' Cantworp and Kika Kobayashi, Cantworp family retainer who helped him cope through those difficult teenage years

His work on the project ensured that he rose to the rank of Rikugun Chūsa -- or Lieutenant Colonel- in the Japanese Imperial Army, and on reaching this esteemed status his regiment presented him with an orchestral tuba.

The Japanese Imperial Army War Tuba Division 1932

In 1938, with war looming, Cookie resigned his commission and returned to the family pile in Finchingfield, ready to do his duty for king and country. His tuba went with him, proving handy as a vessel for his mother’s vegetable arrangements -- for which she won prizes.

Being a kindly soul, Cookie’s mother gifted the tuba to a young and impressionable Silas Marlowe on the occasion of his fourteenth birthday on Christmas Day 1939. The young Silas had been hypnotised by the gleaming instrument from the moment he’d set eyes on it and was now determined to master it.


The first parp took 6 weeks. The second a matter of minutes. The next three years were hell for the neighbours. 


War raged; the threat of the V1 was omnipresent; sons and daughters were far from home; and the protestations of the ARP Warden a nightly occurrence….


'Shut that bleedin’ racket up!'


Silas never did.

The Man Who Sold The World
00:00 / 03:29
Blackberry Way
00:00 / 03:15
Fly Me To The Moon
00:00 / 02:00

Private recordings by kind permission of The MarloweTrust

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