September 2018

Thank-you to every-one who sent their condolences on the death of my mother. Barbie and I much appreciated the kindnesses shown.

Joan Davies (1927-2018) passed away after a severe stroke on July 24th . She had been diagnosed with dementia in 2016 and had been steadily declining in health and spirit.

One of the highlights of her stays with us was to attend the services at St James' or St Mark's. She always commented on the friendliness of the welcome and how the services were conducted “properly”. She enjoyed a chat with many people, particularly with Clive Orchard's mother and Maureen Wood. She last attended St James' on Easter Day 2016.

Mum was a typical Vicar's wife of her era, in that she was an unpaid secretary/ administrator for the parish, two roles which she fulfilled with distinction. She seldom missed a church service and ran the largest branch of the Mothers' Union in the diocese. In 1974 she was made a magistrate and for the years before she and my father retired back to her birthplace, chaired the Juvenile Court. My brother and I were rather bemused when we heard of her appointment, as she was very much a black and white person. There were no shades of grey! However, we were relieved to learn that she was always very fair! Mum complemented my father superbly, as she was extremely practical and could, and did, turn her hand to just about every sort of craft. As a trained typist, in those pre computer days, she typed three degree theses for my father and me. Growing up, my brother and I were very fortunate that she was “always there” for us.

Like many of her generation, she was sceptical about women priests, but after seeing Janet Bromley at work she was completely won over!

Never one to mince words, she would always comment on the service, and particularly the music with such phrases as “the --- was a bit too fast” ; “the organ was very loud in places” (Surely not!!); “the men were rather quiet in the anthem” etc. Though there were many complimentary comments too; even for the floral arrangements!

....It was sad to see how she was in her latter days, but Llys Gwyn Care Home staff in Pontarddulais were wonderful with her, even, when in a rare recent moment of lucidity, she said to a carer “the standard in this hotel has gone down. I shan't be coming here again”!

Her thanksgiving service took place at St Michael's church Pontarddulais (sadly the Welsh church of her childhood and latter years was closed for repairs) and Barbie, my brother and his family were all able to contribute to the service. I was careful to play the organ with rather more delicacy than usual, as I could hear her comments in my ear!

She will be hugely missed on earth, and I hope St Peter knows what is coming his way...........

During the Summer, as well as the usual stock of thrillers and murders, I read a fascinating account of the life of Edward Bairstow who was in charge of music at York Minster from 1913 until his death in 1946. The first section of the book is autobiographical, but it was completed by Francis Jackson, Bairstow's pupil who succeeded him at York in 1946, retiring in 1982 and having recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Bairstow came to achieve one of the finest church music posts through a series of parish church appointments; Wigan Parish Church (1899 - 1906) and Leeds Parish Church (1906 - 1913). Both had superb choirs and excellent organs in the days when church music was really valued by the large congregations. The present day Leeds Parish Church was built in the mid nineteenth century, and Dr Hook, the vicar at that time insisted on there being a cathedral-like series of choral services, including weekday evensongs! Bairstow got the job out of over 300 applicants. Today, the websites of these once venerable institutions paint a rather bleak picture. Wigan Parish Church has an adult choir in single figures, while Leeds abandoned the weekday evensongs and its boys' choir some years ago relying today on choral scholars from the university to make up its choir.

We sing quite a number of pieces by Bairstow, including the lovely communion anthem “Let all mortal flesh keep silence”, the evensong anthem “Save us O Lord“ and the Communion Service in E♭. They all have two things in common; beautifully written and difficult! But like many such pieces, rewarding to sing.

On Sunday September 9th we are hosting the Deanery Choral Evensong. This year, the music will pay homage to Dr Herbert Sumsion, for many years Organist and Choirmaster at Gloucester Cathedral. The conductor will be Bernard West, from Shipton-under-Wychwood in the Cotswolds – no stranger to Dursley as he has played on a couple of occasions at our Coffee Cake and Music organ recitals. Everyone is most welcome to attend this event, which, like our regular evensongs, hopes to keep this unique church service alive.

The last recital in this year's Coffee Cake and Music series will be given by Martin Bell on Saturday 29th September. This will be a return visit by Martin, and I know his programme will be well worth hearing. Currently he is Director of Music at St Catherine's church, Gorseinon (a few miles north of Swansea) where he has been responsible for a radical overhaul and rebuild of a formerly rather dull sounding organ. The “new” instrument is a combination of pipe and digital and is of cathedral proportions, sounding magnificent in the spacious building. I know he will explore all the colour available on our equally splendid instrument.

                                                                             Nigel Davies

Music for September

2nd   am   Thee we adore O Hidden Saviour – Davies Sumsion in F

        pm    Teach me O Lord – Attwood, Ayleward Responses,
Stanford in B♭ , Justorum Anime - Stanford

 9th   am    Informal Worship

        pm    Deanery Evensong          The Music of Herbert Sumsion

16th am    Just as I am – Chilcott     Woodard Service - Shephard

23rd am    A New Commandment  I give to you – Nardone
Mass of the Creator - Sanders

30th am    Never Weather-beaten Sail – Wood           Ireland in C

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