Tributes paid to ‘gracious’ Jean

Jean Grayston in 2016
Jean Grayston in 2016

A famous contralto singer who spent summers performing in Scarborough has died aged 91.

Tributes have flooded in for ‘gracious’ and ‘talented’ Jean Grayston, the widow of musical legend Max Jaffa, after she died on December 19.

Jean Grayston with daughters Naomi Jaffa, Jenny Isaacson and Lisa Gershon

Jean Grayston with daughters Naomi Jaffa, Jenny Isaacson and Lisa Gershon

The singer, who was born and died in the same street in London, spent summers first performing as a soloist at the Open Air Theatre and then at the Spa with her husband.

The pair met at a concert in Portsmouth in 1956 where they were both performing.

Their daughter Lisa 
Gershon says for them it was love at first sight and sparks instantly flew between them.

She said: “Daddy told his trio ‘I do hope she can sing the way she looks’ and of course she was a natural.”

Jean Grayston in the 1950s

Jean Grayston in the 1950s

The pair married in June 1959 and went on to have three daughters Naomi and twins Jenny and Lisa.

Jean first performed a season in Scarborough in 1955 in the summer musical King’s Rhapsody at the Open Air Theatre.

She became attached to the area and went on to perform as a guest artist at Scarborough Spa for three years before she convinced Max to spend his first season in the town in 1960.

Lisa said: “She persuaded him to come to Scarborough. She told him ‘you must come to try for one season’ and that went on and lasted for 27 years.”

Jean was always the guest singer for every first and last show week of the season.

“The chemistry between them on stage was so real, they were exactly the same off stage,” said Lisa.

“She was always available too. She could be mucking out a stable with us and the Spa would call and ask her to step in. She would put on a frock, think of a song and get down there.

“She was so generous and warm hearted and I think a lot of people that I’ve spoken to have said that it’s the end of an era.”

The family spent every summer in Scalby at Argyll Lodge where they quickly became a part of the community.

Lisa said: “I feel like I’m home when I come to Scarborough and I think that’s something to be cherished and celebrated.

“My parents gave a lot to Scarborough and I think we received an abundance back.”

Jean was involved with many community activities like Burniston Show and Jean would host an Easter Egg hunt for almost every child in the village of Scalby.

“She loved being in the community and I think the community knew that.”

Her passion for singing never wavered and she performed beautifully in front of guests on her 90th birthday.

“She was gracious, beautiful, loyal, dependable, talented and independent and she never lost her delightfully naughty sense of humour,” said Lisa.