Wendy Ritson obituary

<span>Wendy Ritson played Bartók very fast backwards for the 1970s prog rock band Centipede</span><span>Photograph: family</span>
Wendy Ritson played Bartók very fast backwards for the 1970s prog rock band CentipedePhotograph: family

My grandmother Wendy Ritson, who has died aged 90, was a classically trained violinist. She became a member of the prog rock band Centipede under her married name, Wendy Treacher.

Founded by the jazz pianist Keith Tippett in 1970, Centipede was made up of about 50 musicians who came together to record a double album, Septober Energy, in 1971. A sprawling creation, the LP consisted of four movements each lasting 20 minutes, with Wendy playing Bartók very fast backwards on the freestyle string section at the end of the third track.

After its release she performed with the band in the UK and mainland Europe until they disbanded in late 1971, after which she concentrated on her career as a social worker, later training as a psychotherapist in the mid 1970s. She continued to play the violin for the love of it, and also taught the instrument for the next 50 years.

Wendy was born in Croydon, south London, the third child of Hilda (nee Shrapnel) and Leonard Ritson, a leather goods manufacturer. Her secondary education was mainly at Sydenham high school, where she started playing the violin at 13. By 18 she was leader (principal first violin) of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, and in 1953 she joined the Royal Academy of Music, where she met Graham Treacher, a fellow student, whom she married the following year. They had two sons together before divorcing in 1964.

She began working as a minicab driver in north London while looking after her children and taking part-time professional work with the Aeolian Sinfonia of North London and a string quartet that played regularly at the first Pizza Express restaurants. She also taught violin, both privately and at St Marylebone grammar school.

It was through Wendy’s various musical connections that she came to the attention of Tippett and was then invited to join Centipede. When her time with the group had ended, she returned her focus to social work, which she had been involved in since the 60s, working in the Finchley, Brent and Golders Green areas of north London for the London borough of Barnet, which had initially sponsored her training.

She worked for a decade at locations such as Friern psychiatric hospital in north London and Shenley hospital in Hertfordshire, before qualifying as a psychotherapist.

She subsequently moved to Scotland in 1986 to teach violin at Ardvreck school and then Croftinloan school, both in Perthshire. In the early 90s she moved to Cambridge to teach at the Perse school, later relocating to Bath and then Cheltenham, where she gave private lessons until 2022.

She kept herself fit and healthy into old age through playing tennis, jogging and walking her dogs.

Wendy is survived by her two sons, Martin and Dominic, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.