Tributes to GMVC Members
Ron Whetton, 1924-2019, 95yrs, tribute by Steve Hickman
Ron became president of GMVC in 1985. Before that he compered our Celebrity Concerts. Ron was the perfect president. He was always there at concerts either in the audience, singing with the choir or compering the concert.
I can always remember him compering the Celebrity Concerts at the Town Hall each year, he was in his element there, listing all the dignitaries, and he knew most of them personally. He was also in his element when introducing the Celebrity Artist.
He introduced Artists such as, Paul Hudson, Deborah Norman, Bonaventura Bottone and Donald Maxwell, to name but a few.
I have one lasting memory of Ron; we were in America in 1989. We were at the Epcot Centre singing and Ron was compering as usual, the choir appreciated him, the audience appreciated him but I’m not sure about the gulls flying overhead at the same time as Ron was speaking. By the time we had finished Ron was covered in gull poo, but Ron, ever the professional carried on, never missed a beat. Roy Davies wrote some appropriate lyrics to the tune of ‘Yellow Bird! Unfortunately lost now or the choir could have sung it for you!
Ron was a great ambassador for the choir, wherever he was, if there was a chance to sing the praises of the GMVC he would do so.
When he stepped down as President in 2015, after serving 30yrs, he was made an Honorary Life President.
Daughter pays tribute to well-known Burton Teacher and Theatre Star – Ron Whetton
Derbyshire Live, Rhea Turner, 10th August 2019
Tributes have been paid to a theatre fanatic who entertained Burton children for years by dressing up as Santa Claus - and helped set up many of the town's amateur dramatics groups.
Ron Whetton, 95, was a star on the stage - and in the community - thanks to his love of drama.
But he also had a very colourful life, working in the RAF and travelling to Zambia and Hong Kong as a drama adjudicator.
Now, following his death on July 12, his daughter Rachel Radford has paid tribute to the doting dad of two.
Rachel said: "He was a hands-on dad and he taught me to knit even though he didn’t know how to cast on or off - which was a bit of a problem. "He had a sweet tooth and could always be relied on to buy sweets and, on holiday, ice cream every day.
"Encouraged by my brother and me, but not by my mother, we got him to drive at 100mph on the A38 in the days before the 70mph speed limit. We’d also get him to drive very fast up and down the Scotch Hills so our stomachs went into the air."
Rachel also looked back on his 'remarkable' life and said her father had a varied career, which included work in the RAF and as Santa Claus, but his love was always for theatre.
She said: "Dad was born in Stanton in 1924 and his love of theatre began at school with a photo of Stanton school’s play of 1932/33 showing him playing Santa Claus in his first-ever theatre role.
"He went on to Newhall Secondary School and left at 14.
"Grandad was determined his son wouldn't go down the pit so dad went to Burton commercial school to learn shorthand, typewriting and book-keeping.
He then became a clerk with Burton Corporation Electricity Department.
"When war came and older men were called up, he became head of the wages section at the age of just 16."It was while Ron was a flight sergeant for Swadlincote Air Training Corps in 1942 that he met his wife Rennie before being called up to serve in the Second World War. Rachel said: "Dad was called up in 1943 and joined the RAF at Lords Cricket Ground and was soon in the Orkneys in a combined operations room defending Scapa Flow."Although many considered Orkney the worst posting, dad loved it and joined a group of RAF actors, some of them professionals.From them he learned acting, taking roles in various productions touring military bases."He spent his spare time singing solos at the Congregational Church and writing articles for the Forces Newspaper, "The Orkney Blast".
At the end of the war, Ron made two life-changing decisions – to apply for teacher training and to marry his teenage sweetheart. The pair wed in April 1947 and moved to Newhall, where Ron took on a very new role as a 'doting dad' to Rachel and Robert.
Around this time, Ron was also interviewed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he was offered a place if the RAF would release him. However, they refused and when he was eventually demobbed, it was back to the Electricity Department.
Rachel said: "That was when dad decided to do his teacher training in Peterborough."He went on to teach in Church Gresley, then Newhall Juniors, as well as joining the Burton School of Speech and Drama where he spent his evenings taking parts in plays. "When the post of Principal came up at the Burton School of speech and drama, he got the job and was there for 28 years. "The school achieved much on a minuscule budget, largely due to dad's enthusiasm and dedication."
Ron also became an adjudicator of speech and drama festivals, a role which gave him the opportunity to travel far and wide to places including Zambia, Hong Kong, Monaco and remote parts of the Australian bush.
Rachel said: "Dad loved singing and took singing lessons for a while, producing three shows for the Burton and District Operatic Society."He would burst into snippets of song all the time and a very happy memory of mine is of being in bed hearing my mother playing the piano and Dad singing.”
Ron, who was also a Freemason, loved his garden and, in 1964, he and Rennie bought a plot of land in Burton and had a house built. Rachel said: "Dad set about creating the garden which he loved and there were many happy times there. "They hosted parties for the big birthdays and anniversaries, the last one being their 70th wedding anniversary two years ago."
Ron was also a grandad to Ellen and a great grandad to Caroline and Emma who he loved to treat to an ice cream whenever he got chance.Rachel added: "Dad’s diary was always full and he was always happy to give of his time which clearly meant a great deal to lots of people.
"The many kind letters of condolence received mention his dignity, calm approach, warmth, kindness, sense of humour and how lucky people feel they are to have known him."
In a birthday celebration three weeks before his death, Ron was keeping the crowds entertained as he celebrated turning 95.
Rachel said: "The celebrations coincided with a garden party at the nursing home and he was delighted when everyone sang happy birthday and presented him with a birthday cake. In probably his last theatrical moment he gave a dramatic regal wave to everyone.
"He had a remarkable life, a full life, and he will be greatly missed by my mother, myself, the family and so many people."
Roy Atkins, 1934 - 2019, contributed by Steve Hickman
Roy joined the GMVC at the tender age of 15 so when he past away at the age of 85 he had an unsurpassed service record of 70yrs. 37yrs as choir chairman, again unsurpassed.
There’s no doubt about it Roy was GMVC. It was very rare for Roy to miss a rehearsal, concert or meeting and much to Janet’s annoyance at times he arranged his holidays around the choir, I think I’m right in saying that he bought a static caravan so they could go away for weekends when the choir didn’t have a concert.
Like a stick of Blackpool rock, if you snapped him in half he would have GMVC written down the centre.
With his very good friend Ken Wildes he took the choir to America twice, France, Germany and many places in Britain.
I remember when we use to attend the Festival of Leisure at the Maurice-Lea-Memorial Park. The ladies put on cream teas etc. We would go picking strawberries early Saturday morning so they were fresh. We also ran a popcorn stall that went down really well but unfortunately we didn’t make any money on it. We also had a white elephant stall, which I was running one year. This particular year Roy backed his car up and said to me, the stuff in the back is for the stall. I emptied his boot and during the afternoon, myself and other choir members sold everything on the stall. After we had cleared everything up and put it away Roy came to me and asked if I’d seen his car tool kit, Oh dear! Yes I had taken his tool kit from the car and it had been sold by one of us. Roy laughed it off and wouldn’t let me buy him a new one.
There was nobody more committed to the choir than Roy; he has given future chairman something to build on.
You could say he devoted his life to GMVC.
I, as editor of the GMVC Newsletter and the Website asked Roy Atkins to write his "musical history" which involved the choir. As you see below this was quite detailed and I had difficulty in using it in the Newsletter.
Unfortunately, Roy passed away recently in July , after 70 years membership of the choir, and I felt it was pertinent to include his own "history " in our Website.........Eric Coxon
Roy Atkins – My life in music , written in 2009
I would like to express my appreciation to chairman Geoff, Karl and members of the choir for their support and encouragment during my vocal difficulties. A problem that seems to have been caused by acid reflux for which I have been taking medication for many years. To be presented with a position which stops me being able to sing is a life changing situation for me. It isn’t a question of being advised not to sing, I am not able to sing with my cords in their present condition. However, I will continue to support the choir and carry out my duties as deputy conductor.
My life has been involved in music since my first solo at the age of seven on the Sunday School Anniversary. My parents supported me, paying for piano lessons at my request with the Chapel Organist, Will Perry and later Ada Kirkland. It was difficult to practice because we hadn’t got a piano, we only had a harmonium. I had to go across the road to my aunt and uncle’s house to practise on a piano. I also joined the Rainbow Follies concert party as a boy soprano at the age of 10 and began some vocal tuition under Dr Plant in Burton. He was preparing me to sing ‘Oh for the wings of a dove’ for the Ebenezer Church in Newhall, when sadly he died. Shortly afterwards I contracted Rheumatic Fever and was ill for many months. I returned to solo singing afterwards and joined the Newhall Central Methodist Chapel Choir and was later invited to join the Gresley Choir.
My sixty one years in the male voice choir has been most enjoyable, with the music, friendship and camaraderie. In the early days the choir always travelled by coach to engagements, festivals etc., and members nearly always burst into song on the way home and occasionally stopped for a drink somewhere. We also had an annual high tea and party in the York Road Methodist schoolroom. This was later changed to a formal dinner in the Stanhope Bretby Hotel until it became too expensive. The social side remains as active today but has taken on a different form. We have had many uplifting performances and prestige events with the choir throughout the years in the UK and abroad and may they continue.
There is one event that I will always remember. It was not a major concert but an occasion that brought me to tears. We were at the Hans Am Burgerhaus old peoples Residential Home in Osnabruck during the Twinning Towns Tour in 1987. The residents were confined to their rooms in a five-story building where their windows overlooked the courtyard from where we sang. Many of the residents were looking out of the windows. The concert set-up with Clavinova and organ etc. was good and the performance went well. Our wives and guests visited the residents during our performance returning with many very heart-warming comments. The manager of the home was most complimentary and appreciative of the pleasure we had given his residents. The choir members and our visitors were treated to a tipple of schnapps before we left. As I walked down the drive with my wife back to the coach my emotion got the better of me. My concern about an uncertain venue and what we could hope to do, turned to joy and satisfaction with what the choir had just achieved. My contribution as a soloist and duettist has given me some satisfaction. When Reg Baker asked me to sing my first solo with the choir it was a verse of ‘Leamington’ at Staunton Harold. I was surprised and very nervous. This was followed by solo contributions in Italian Salad, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, Kalinka , The Silver Birch and others. I also went on to sing other solos and duets with Roy Davies and Ken Wildes. There have been times when I was able to wave my arms about in front or the choir.
When Roy Davies was on holiday, during his illness some time ago and more recently when Karl was not available. I had had some experience with my own church choir in Newhall, with the Central Methodist Youth Choir and, with my life-long friend Gerald Rodgers on piano and organ, trained and conducted the children and choir for the Sunday School Anniversary for three years. Being a member of Gresley MVC opened up other opportunities for me. Maurice Jones who was the Hill Street Baptist Messiah organisation secretary invited me to join the Messiah choir. As a young man Gerald Rodgers had taken me along to a performance at Hill Street some years before but I would never have thought that I would eventually manage to sing in 47 performances as I did until my enforced retirement in 2008. It was at the Messiah performance in 1968 that Ken Moon and Steve Brown, who were taking the solo leads that year, asked me to join the Lea Harmony Quartet. The quartet was a well-established and a respected group in the area and with broadcasts on Midland Radio. The second tenor Arthur Musk had developed MS and couldn’t continue so they invited me to take his place.
I was flattered to be asked to join the Lea Harmony Quartet but checked with the ‘Gresley Choir’ if they would wish me to step down from the post of Chairman which I was only appointed to the year before. The choir agreed I continue in post and fortunately there was only one occasion when there was a conflict of interest and missed an engagement. I learnt a great deal from these fellows. Ken was the first tenor and had sung with Gresley and Moira, Steve Brown the Bass was in Gresley at the time, both had received vocal tuition. Walter Powlson the baritone, had never had a singing lesson in his life but credited his choirmaster at St.John’s Parish Church in Newhall for his singing abilities. Walter was one of the best baritones in the area at that time. The quartet accompanist and trainer was Richard (Dick) Arnold. The rehearsals were enjoyable and most of the items were for my benefit. I knew some of the music but the others were able to sing from around 100 items with little rehearsal. I was singing first tenor in ‘Gresley’ and second tenor in the quartet but fortunately there was not much clashing. We had an enjoyable time together; looked after well by the caretakers Mr or Mrs. Ball with tea half way through rehearsals at Linton Heath. Among the many amusing moments with the fellows I’m sure Steve wouldn’t have minded me giving you this one. As male voice choir members, who knew him well, will be aware of he seemed to have a photographic memory. Even when music was taken out of the archive to prepare a new programme he didn’t need to refer to it. However, there was an incident on one occasion with the quartet when Steve’s memory failed him in concert; not that the audience would have known, at least they didn’t show it if they did. The concert was at a harvest supper at Winshill Methodist Church. The piece of music we were singing was an Irish song entitled ‘O lovely Heart’ (it is in Gresley’s Archive) and Steve was singing a bass solo section in it. He should have ended with the words ‘and your incredulous eyes’. The words that Steve sang were ‘and your intermidable eyes’. We other members were greatly amused but managed to complete the song without any outward display. We pulled his leg in the vestry afterwards and he admitted that he could not remember the word but had to put something in.
One of the quartet’s concerts was as guests at the Burton Municipal Choir’s annual concert in Burton Town prior to the stage alterations. The Municipal Choir was arranged on the pew type seating on stage and the orchestra was positioned on an extended stage half way down the hall. We sang on the front of the stage to about fifteen rows of audience and the rest in the balcony; a strange situation. We also sang at Swadlincote Council’s Civic Reception in Gresley Old Hall following Jack Bodell’s success on becoming British Heavyweight Boxing Champion. In addition to the concert engagements the quartet entered competitive music festivals each year. Over a period of five and a half years with the group until it ceased because of Walter and Steve’s illness’s 17 festivals were entered. The quartet received 10 firsts, 6 seconds and 1 third prizes. A first prize was gained in Blackpool in the Winter Gardens at the third attempt having come away with second on the previous occasions. This may sound a boastful statement but the singing quality was always there with the other three members before I joined. Winning is nice but the most satisfying thing for me was being able to sing along side three soloists considered to be among the best in the area.
It goes without saying that my heart always was and still is with Gresley Male Voice Choir. I have kept a full diary of all the events and engagements combined with the newspaper cuttings, posters and concert programmes and in particular autograph signed programmes of all the celebrity concerts up to 2004. Hence the reason, when asked by the Special Purposes Committee, why I was able collate all the information on the 100 year history in the Sol-Fa So Good book. Yes – I have many fond memories over the years to look back on and keep my spirit up. Once again, many thanks to you all
Ken Wildes,1928 - 2019, Aged 91,
Tribute to Ken Wildes - contributed by Roy Atkins, April 2019
I first met Ken when he joined the choir in 1979. He became a member of Gresley as a result of singing with group of people in the Grove Pub in Stapenhill. I don’t know if he knew who he was standing next to at the time. It happened to be Roy Davies who was the Musical Director of Gresley Male Voice Choir. There were some other choir members there and as result he was at choir’s next rehearsal. At the time the choir was very active with fund raising to purchase formal uniforms and Ken, being a very friendly person soon got involved and supported my brother George who was treasurer of the uniform sub committee.
His voice was a great asset to the first tenor section. He had problems with his hearing, one ear being stronger than the other, but that didn’t stop him singing. He stood on my left hand side all the time I was singing in the choir, and used to claim he picked his notes up off me, so if he sang a wrong note you know who to blame. On the other hand I enjoyed his support. He took steps to further his singing by having singing lessons and contacted the local musician June Wedd for weekly vocal exercises which continued throughout his life when he could. He started singing solos and also joined Karl Harper for advice and singing duets. I also had the pleasure of singing duets with him. Once he had learned a piece of music he never forgot it. This must be one of the answers to the question how does he do it , in later years when his hearing got much worse.
Two years after he joined we had the invitation to go to Florida. The choir had been raising money for uniforms and was now tackling another fund raising effort for the tour to USA. In addition to selling raffle tickets, holding auction of second hand gifts etc, making and selling garden furniture. Many people opened their houses to hold barbecues, Ken went a stage further, he converted his living room and kitchen to make one big room to house the choir and built an extension for the kitchen. Many events were held their often with a large tent on the lawn and linked to the rear of the bungalow.
When John Newton retired from the post as choir Secretary following the first tour to Florida which was a success, Ken took on the responsibility as Tour Secretary. The choir members suggested that we tour in Europe and Ken organised a tour to Germany in 1987. Yes it was a foreign language but my son was into languages and worked with him when required. The return trip to Florida in 1989 was a major undertaking. The original request for us to make a return visit included a sponsorship with events in two parts, one for Florida and a second part in another state of America. From a phone call five months before we due travel Ken and I found out that there were problems and no sponsorship. So Ken and I went over with our Wives for a weeks Holiday in Florida and sorted it out. Ken did an excellent job for a tour that amounted to !43 people who came home well satisfied. The next tours was the Black Forest in Germany/ France in 1991 and Ireland in 2001.
Ken’s work on tours was in addition to his job as SP Secretary following the amalgamation of Uniform and Tour committees. He must be one of the most committed and loyal members the choir has had. He travelled all over the country with his work as a Civil Engineer as Piling Manager and was still able to have a good attendance record at practices. There is not many, if there is any, places in the UK he has not visited in his job. He was working in Scotland one Friday but drove back home for choir practice. Its clear to everyone that Ken and I were friends, because of our involvement with choir responsibilities, we naturally become friends. My wife and I had a good friendship with Rita & Ken and went on holidays together in addition to the choir tours. We both had static Caravans based in Hampshire and often visited the theatre in Bournemouth and Southhampton to visit shows. Our touring holidays took us to Canada, California and including the Grand Canyon which Ken had wanted to visit. We also went to France, based in the Champagne region to see three Tenors in Concert in Paris. One unforgettable tour where music was involved with Ken and I find it difficult to explain it to you. We were on a tour all the way down the leg of Italy visiting picturesque areas.
Our first stop was in Venice. When we had viewed the town the tour party we in were invited to get into Gondolas. There were about 6 to 8 available to take the group. Not only were we going to be taken around the canals, when were all afloat we were going to be entertained by musicians in one of the Gondolas floating in the middle of the boats. A singer accompanied by an accordionist and the singer was a tenor and the boat was right next to ours. He stuck his chest out and was singing well known operatic music but was not at the level of Andrea Bocelli and he was nowhere near the quality of Ken. I felt uncomfortable for Ken, who I’m sure was itching to join in. Eventually for our benefit Ken just muttered Just one Cornetto, like the well known advert. We were both a bit restless. If Ken had opened up with his proper voice as he would have loved to do, the temptation was there, It would have been a dreadful hit to this fellow. Ken played the considerate polite gesture and remained silent.
When Ken joined the choir, at the age of 51, he had no history to write about regarding singing. He had a short time time with Rolleston choral society and he said he had heard the Gresley choir at one of their visits. When he eventually worked on his voice for singing he soon demonstrated what can be achieved if you work at it. He reached an impressive standard and if it had happened earlier in life he could have earned his living in a world of music.
In 1994 Black Mountain recording company were recording the choir in West Street Methodist Church, the record was to be called Reflections. The choir was singing in the normal church choir seats in the front of the organ. We were getting towards the end of the recording and I asked Ken if he was singing Kalinka, it was usually in the programme at that time. Ken said “Roy Davies has not asked me”. Roy was conducting on a platform in the congregation seats below where we were. I went down stairs and asked Roy, why Ken wasn’t singing . He said “I didn't think he would be able to do it” I said “ Well you can ask him and if it doesn’t work you can leave it off the recording” He said “OK”
I’m not trying to claim credit from this. It was not an easy setup of the microphones for the recording. This was probably very much in Roy’s mind. Kalinka turned out to be the best item on the disc mainly because of Ken’s contribution and really demonstrates the quality of Ken’s singing, raises the emotion with the pitch of his voice and in particular with the clarity of his diction. On the last few days he had with us, at practice and in concert, he was in great pain. So for him to meet his maker was a great relief.
I have many happy memories to remember Ken by and have enjoyed his friendship and our associations over many years. I’m sure that many other people will have pleasant memories and contacts with Ken.
Our thoughts at this time are with Rita,Yvonne and family, held with a great deal of love and sympathy.
From Ken's Service to Celebrate His LIfe, Bretby Crematorium, 25th April, 2019:
“One At Rest”
Think of me as one at rest,For me you should not weep.I have no pain no troubled thoughtsFor I am just asleepThe living thinking me that was,Is now forever stillAnd life goes on without me now,As time forever will.
If your heart is heavy nowBecause I’ve gone awayDwell not long upon it friendFor none of us can stayThose of you who liked me,I sincerely thank you allAnd those of you who loved me,I thank you most of all.
And in my fleeting lifespan,As time went rushing byI found some time to hesitate,To laugh, to love, to cryMatters it now if time beganIf time will ever cease?I was here, I used it all,And now I am at peace.
by Helen Steiner Rice, 1900 – 1981.
Bryn Masterman, Aged 79,
Bretby Crematorium, 5th February 2019
Bryn was a very accomplished singer in our Baritone Section. He joined the choir in 1991 until 2003 when he and Jan moved to warmer climes in Turkey. During that time, whenever he came back to visit his family, he was always at practice and in the audience at our concerts, When he and Jan returned home to live locally in 2009, Bryn was straight back to practice and continued where he left off, a committed member always at hand to help. Unfortunately, his heath started to deteriorate and in 2014 he was no longer able to come to choir, something I know he was devastated about. He served on the Executive Committee for 7 years as well as being the choir Marshal, also helping in many projects we embarked on.
.....Chairman Geoff Hampson
George (Gerry) Oates, Aged 79, given by Steve Hickman at the Bretby Crematorium, 8th August , 2018
George (Gerry) Oates joined GMVC in October 1996. This year was his 22nd year of singing.
When I first met Gerry it didn’t get off to a good start. We were at the Burton Town Hall, putting our old wooden staging up for our annual Celebrity Concert. I can’t remember what year.Unlike the weather we have been having, the rain was coming down in “stair rods”. Any youngsters here ask a person over 60 what they are!!
Gerry had got a yellow waterproof on plus a sou’wester! As he was walking in the door with rain dripping off his nose, I said “You look just like Popeye the sailor man! ”. This did not go down well with Gerry, I received some choice words; he then downed tools and threatened to go home!. I apologised and assured him I didn’t mean anything by it, it was just my sense of humour and I apologised again.
After that day we became firm friends, I don’t why, we just did.
Gerry loved the choir and hated missing anything to do with it, whether it was rehearsals, concerts, tours or fund raising. He was always there. His attendance at rehearsals and concerts was second to none. He even cancelled an appointment at the hospital because the choir was short of top tenors. Can you believe it ?; but that was Gerry!
When I retired in 2006 Gerry and Joe Eyley got me to join the Swadlincote Probus club. Gerry never missed a meeting until the last few months of his illness.
In 2008 some friends in our village told us they were going on a cruise to the Mediterranian and asked would we like to join them. We said “Yes” and told Gerry and Hilda. They said they would like to come along as well, if that was ok with everybody. Well; nobody had a problem with that. There were 9 of us in the party and we got on like a house on fire. We had a fantastic holiday.
The 4 of us then cruised the Panama Canal and Caribbean in 2011, next was the Baltic 2012, 2013 the Canaries and our final cruise together was a music cruise to the Med, where we were part of a choir formed on board and 2 nights before we got back to Southampton we sang in the chorus of the “Merry Widow” with professionals taking the leading roles. This was done in front of the entire ship. Gerry really enjoyed this, singing and cruising went down well with Gerry and gave him something to talk about for long long time.
One thing Gerry liked, and Hilda as well, was a game of cards; we never went on holiday without a deck of cards. I think Gerry got very frustrated with Maureen and myself, when he tried to teach us Cribbage, no chance! I could never understand the scoring afterward a hand, and as for “One for his Knob!!
Gerry had a varied life; he was a merchant seaman, He was in the army, signed up for 12yrs, met Hilda and bought himself out. He was ambulance driver, and an electrician at various power stations. He worked with various other firms in Burton including Marston’s, Burton Coin Machines, finally ending up, until his retirement, at Toyota.
He also collected stamps, post cards and old books to do with the sea, ships etc. I’m afraid I got into trouble with Hilda over books as Gerry asked me to find some books for him. I went on the iinternet, found them and acquired them for him. They were old musty and smelt!!, she made Gerry cover them. Hilda reminded me only last week, and asked me if I wanted them back!
Now as you can imagine with his life and various jobs, he had lots of stories to tell, and “Boy!” did he tell them. The tales varied from Merchant Navy and the Army and various people he met and worked with. Gerry’s tales were entertaining and could be informative. He was a very knowledgeable person and very good at crosswords. I’m afraid we haven’t got time for his tales, I wish we had.
He loved people like my wife. He could tell her tales that were a load of rubbish and she would swallow them “hook, line and sinker,” every time. She never learnt!
The sad part of Gerry’s life is his family. He lost contact with his family about 50 years ago. He tried to find them many times, all he knew was, they had emigrated to Australia. It was just before last Xmas that his family found him, his younger sister and older brother plus numerous nephews and nieces. They have been “Skype-ing” each other ever since. Gerry would have loved to have met them in the flesh, but due to his illness this was not possible. At least he had 22 happy years with Fiona, his daughter.
To sum Gerry up:
Cheeky, a joker, fiery, as a lot of people found out! Help anybody, heart of gold and once you were a friend, you were a friend for life. If Hilda ever lost Gerry, she knew where to find him, he would be surrounded by females somewhere, listening to his stories and his terrible jokes. He just loved being the centre of attention.
I would like to read something that I think Gerry would have liked.
It’s by Helen Lowrie Marshall.
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun;
Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.
Bryan Hollins , 1941-2018, Aged 76, given by Clive Lawton at the Memorial Service, 18th May 2018
What can I say about my best friend Bryan.
Well I know what he would have said looking at all you people here this evening.
He would have turned to the choir and said, "lads, we have a good audience tonight."
I first met Bryan and Jean when I called at their shop Lloyds Cycles in Swadlincote for a torch battery.
An hour later I was still there putting the world to rights. Bryan was a natural conversationalist and a pleasure to talk to.
When they sold the shop and retired Bryan joined Gresley Male Voice Choir and soon volunteered to join the tour committee, known in the choir as the Special Purposes Committee.
He was a very active member of the committee and volunteered on many occasions with fund raising activities and helped me with the planning of many of the choir tours.
It was here that our friendship flourished. Travelling to reconnoitre the events both in this country and abroad, booking hotels and transport. Visiting our concert venues personally to introduce ourselves and the choir we represented. Ensuring the concerts would be advertised properly and the venues were adequate for our needs.
Bryan was a comedian at times as you all know and some of his one liners were the stuff of legend.
I recall a couple of times when we were in France, that his humour excelled. I haven’t told anyone until now of our visit to Orleans in the Loire Valley. We were there in 2011 to plan the choir tour for the following year. The twinning society between Pithiviers and Ashby de la Zouch had arranged for us the possibility of singing in Chartres and Orleans Cathedrals, so we needed to visit both to discuss the arrangements with the cathedral administrators.
Let me set the scene for you.
On the day we were to visit Orleans Cathedral, where we had a meeting arranged with Yvett the administrator. On the way to meet her he said he was going to enquire if she had ever been in Allo, Allo.
We met her and after discussing the staging of the concert, she invited us to view the archaeological dig taking place in the cathedral. So off we went following Yvett down the transept until she stopped and said, through there. Through there was a hole in the wall about a metre square. We crawled through on hands and knees and then down a narrow winding stone staircase until we reached the crypt. Where the crypt floor should have been, appeared a dark seemingly bottomless hole about 20 feet square with the top of a ladder sticking out of the top. When Yvett switched the lights on we saw that at the bottom of this large hole was an alter. She explained the alter was Roman, which confirmed the cathedral was built on the site of a former roman temple.
Bryan in thoughtful mood looking down the hole said he felt sorry for those Romans. Why is that we asked, well, having to climb down that ladder every Sunday for worship.
Bryan was a kind man. When my daughter developed a spinal condition which meant she needed to use a wheelchair because of her back pain, Bryan offered the use of his caravan at Scarborough so she could have a holiday with her family, being able to rest when she needed to. Those kindnesses are never forgotten.
Scarborough was also the first choir tour we organised together, being invited by Superintendent Minister Peter Kindlesides to a concert in Filey Methodist church. We performed to a packed church and it is one concert that stands out in my memory as a wonderful evening where the choir excelled and the audience really appreciated us being there.
Bryan was very proud of his family. He often spoke to me about them.
Steven and Laura with their children Evie and Esme.
Working on a project with his son gave him great pleasure.
When it comes to projects Bryan’s extensive store of almost every conceivable item must have been a help to Steven. I have always thought that Bryans garage was far too small to house his huge collection and suspected there was a hidden door in the rear wall which connected to a cave probably under the roundabout on the A444.
An example of his collection occurred when my wife Pat needed a WW1 gas mask for an amateur theatrical production she was appearing in. The cast had tried everywhere to find one to no avail. I suggested they ask Bryan so she called him to enquire. Yes he said, how many do you need. He had three.
Andrew, being a minister of the faith Bryan held so dear was something he felt was very special indeed and something he felt blessed to be able to be a part of as Andrew’s dad.
Andrew moved several time with his ministry and wherever Andrew went Bryan ensured the choir were sure to follow. We sang in Hoddesdon and Walthamstow in the church of St Peter in the wood. And enjoyed a conducted tour of Waltham Abbey while in the London area.. Bryan suggested we take the party on a boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich and then for a flight on the London eye. He asked the booking clerk if she could ensure all our party could fly in the same capsule. Yes of course Mr. Hollins. How many are there. 102 replied Bryan to which she said, perhaps not. On the way back to the hotel he said they didn’t make wheels like they used to?
Bigglewade is a favourite with the choir where we always feel welcome. Scarborough, Falmouth Scotland and twice to France are destinations Bryan and I worked on together and I will never forget his help, advice, humour and friendship which lasted until his untimely passing.
When Bryan arrives at the gates of heaven he should go to the head of the queue for the life he lead here on earth. He was a Gentleman, a true Christian sole and a friend I will never forget.
He won’t be there at the front of course because he will be chatting to everyone on the way Forward. When he does eventually arrive at those pearly gates St Peter will no doubt be surprised when Bryan whips out his oil can and a spanner to ease and adjust the hinges before passing through.
God bless you Bryan and keep you safe in your new life in heaven.
We all miss you.
John Angus, 1982 - 2017, Aged 82
John joined the choir on 1st June, 1982, acted as PRO from 1999 to 2009, and a member of our Executive Committee from 2010 to 2015.
He was elected a Life Member of GMVC in 2011.
John started compering our concerts in 2001. Of particular note is our trip to France when he surprised us all by speaking in French, not all the time but quite a bit!!
He was a man of many talents and knew and performed many monologues, of particular note was "Joyce the Librarian"!!"
.........contributed by Steve Hickman
"One Saturday night a few years ago I attended the Town Hall to see Gresley Male Voice Choir in concert. Never having seen them before I went along to satisfy my curiosity. Prior to this the only other Male Voice Choir I had seen was the Treorchy Male Voice Choir back in the mid-1970's, in their own home town.
My curiosity was soon satisfied at the Burton Town Hall, and I was truly impressed. At the interval, a choir member came up to me and said that he knew me and had heard me sing a few years back with a local group. After admitting that I didn't actually know him we chatted for a while; during which he suddenly asked why I didn't consider joining the choir!!!!
Immediately thinking such a move would be beyond me I said I didn't think so. He persevered but then left me with a thought; "you'll never know unless you try". He further suggested that I speak to another choir member about the possibility before I made up my mind. That guy who was so insistent became a good friend of mine, and subsequently a fellow choir member, the now late John Angus.The guy he suggested I talk to before making up my mind was the late Ian Davies!
I therefore, find it doubly sad, for both John and Ian helped to introduce me to whole new experience in singing/entertaining which I wholeheartedly enjoy to this day. Thanks, John, thanks, Ian. RIP"..........contributed by Tony Mulcahy
For me John was my window to the choir when I came to watch the joint concerts between GMVC and the Boy's Choir. His jokes made our other children roll with laughing one evening at Stretton and he looked over to us and said "you can come again". This actually made it easier to get the other kids out of the house to attend concerts when my son was in the Boys Choir. My other big memory of John from before I joined the Choir was at a Christmas Concert in West Street (more than 10 years ago) when we had just all sang the 12 days of Christmas and John made his usual reference to the choir being open to new members before looking directly at me and saying "particularly you sir, you look like a bass to me..." John also took 10 minutes to chat to me after my first rehearsal and was a catalyst in making me feel very welcome.
Just whilst writing this, I remember that John was also particularly welcoming to the young lady that I used to work with who came to sit in on a few Wednesday evening rehearsals. Due to her personal history, she was not always trusting of others and would more often be negative about new people but the first time she came to rehearsal with me she was chatting with John and said what a nice man he was on our way home. Which, on reflection is probably the greatest compliment of all...
........contributed by Ralph Furner
Ray Collier, 1988 - 2015
Ray was a keen and valued member of the choir for 27yrs. He attended all concerts except for illness etc and went on most of the tours.
Being a member of the choir helped him get over the loss of his wife and when he was ill during his last years he became a non-singing member at concerts, but kept coming to choir practices.
Ray was never an officer or a member of any committee but was an integral, long lasting part of the Gresley Male Voice Choir
Joe Eyley, 2002 -2016
Joe Eyley was a long standing and much respected member of our Special Purposes Committee. He will be sadly missed as he contributed so greatly over the years as Ticketing Agent, Doorman
and above all, his respected and thoughtful comments and advice on every subject matter we discussed.
Eric Jackson, 1925 - 2014
A Tribute written by Roy Atkins, 24th September 2014
Many people who enjoyed the friendship and support and benefited from just knowing Eric, no doubt would join me in this Tribute, in particular those in the world of music. I first met Eric in 1974 although at the time he was only living two streets away from me in Newhall, when he was working as a Development Engineer at the National Coal Board Mining establishment, within walking distance of his home in Wood Lane. He attended the launch of Gresley’s first historical booklet “70 Yearsof Music Making” at West Street Methodist Church. Eric, a member of South Derbyshire Singers, was a guest of a male voice choir member at the event. A few weeks later he attended choir rehearsals and his membership was confirmed shortly after. The choir had not only gained a very loyal singing member, the following year he became a member of the Executive Committee eventually becoming one of the longest serving officers in the choir.
Holding the post of Vice Chairman for 19 years, served on the Special Purposes standing committee for a number of years and was it’s Chairman for 10yrs. He was also the Transport Officer for many years organising coach travel for the choir when required. His membership of 40yrs was acknowledged with long service awards for 21 and 35 years and receiving a life membership award in 1999.Most people will remember him for his work with the National Association of Choirs. He was the choir’s representative on the local area committee and when the NAC decided in 1984 to set up group 10 in the Midlands, Eric took on the responsibility of Chairman for the group with John Newton, Gresley’s Secretary, alongside him as Secretary. Eric’s total devotion to the work of the National Association eventually saw him appointed as its National Chairman and for many years he travelled extensively in the UK in support of choirs at special events and welcoming new choirs into the association. He was eventually honoured with the appointment as President, a position he has held ever since. His involvement with the NAC was a great help to the Gresley choir in the early days providing contacts for Ken Wildes who was the SP secretary resulting in many choir exchange visits throughout the UK. His support has continued of course with Clive Lawton since his increased involvement with the National Association.
There was another side to Eric, which has not been brought to the fore recently because of his busy life with the NAC. In addition to his hobby of singing he was a poet and was regularly writing on a daily basis according to his wife Margaret, putting the words together in a hardback book, handy in the kitchen, before leaving for work. Many of Eric’s poems were printed in the choir’s High Notes news letter/magazine and occasionally the compere in choir concerts would use one. At the Celebrity Concert in 1991 the programme included a special performance of a composition entitled “Gresley” with words by Eric and music by Roy Davies, in Roy’s own words - A Meditation. The piece was dedicated to Gresley Male Voice Choir, a first in the choir’s history. Eric was also valued for his ability with a calligraphy pen. When the choir member’s Roll of Honour book was set up in 1981 Eric agreed to enter all the names in it, a duty he has always carried out.
On a personal level as chairman, I became very close to Eric and thankful for his friendship and support over many years, in particular, with his role as Vice Chairman. On the first visit to Florida in 1984 Eric and his wife Margaret, my wife Janet and myself, by arrangement, had apartments in the motel next to each other. We were able to ‘wind down’ at the end of each hectic day with a nightcap together and review the day’s events. Eric’s support and friendship through the years together with his calming influence in difficult times was much appreciated. When he and his wife relocated to Swanwick North Derbyshire with his work, he remained loyal to the choir throughout, maintained his membership travelling to rehearsals and concerts. The choir members were pleased to travel to his local Parish Church in concert to benefit Swanwick and Pentrich Churches. This was repeated two years later and concerts in the Ripley Parish church followed.
Sadly, Eric’s wife Margaret after years of medication with progressive ill health passed away; a serious blow to Eric, a comparatively young man. As a mark of gratitude to the staff of the Haematology Department of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary for the way they had cared for his wife he sponsored a concert in the Queens Hall Methodist Church featuring the Gresley choir with all the funds going to the unit. Eric’s family was very mindful of dad’s situation and was friends with a lady’s family who had lost her husband. They suggested that they might like to meet, and introduced them. Without doubt Janet Broster who has played a major part in the life of Eric was a stalwart supporter with his work with the NAC. The comment made earlier about Eric’s travelling around the UK was with Janet accompanying him on his many miles supporting him encouraging choirs throughout the UK in addition to his membership with Gresley. I first met Janet with Eric at a Barn Dance held at the Rolleston School. No, they weren’t there just for the dance they had attended a fund raising event organised by the Special Purposes committee of which Eric was involved, such was Janet’s support. The choir was privileged to hold a fund raising Open Air Concert at her home, The Croft, in Linton, with special guests, The Boundary Singers and styled as a picnic evening with the choirs performing on sit-on staging and amplification as required.
We at Gresley choir have been very fortunate in having a member like Eric in our midst and were always proud for him to be on our front row, displaying his chain of office in concert, knowing that so many people respected him. During the last year he and Janet have suffered so many misfortunes with health problems and accidents, unbelievable, but they have always been in our thoughts. We express our sincere condolences to Keith, Sheila and families for the loss of man who had so much to offer and will be missed by so many people around the UK and by his colleagues in Gresley Choir. To Janet who was the main ‘life blood’ of Eric in his latter years you should take great comfort from the fact that he achieved a great deal, that without your help and undaunting support would have been very difficult.
God bless you all.
Royston ( Roy ) Hughes Davies, 1925 - 2013
A Tribute written by Roy Atkins, 1st June 2013
Our thoughts at this time must be with the Davies family, a distressing time for them in the 13th.year of this Century with the loss of Ian followed by his dad, Roy and Thelma in the first days of the year. Having said that we must remember Roy Davies for a long and memorable life and for the contribution he gave to the community. I first met Roy just after he arrived at Newhall in 1960. At Central Methodist Church Choir rehearsal one Thursday evening I said to my brother, “who is that dark haired fellow in the Basses? “At that time Janet and I were living in Winshill, George said, “Oh he’s the new Postmaster”. As Newhall Postmaster, he was of course, greatly involved with the life of the community but I never realised at that time how much involvement he would have on my own life through his musical talents.
Let us start at the beginning. Roy was born into a world of music in the South Wales Village of Abergwynfi in Glamorgan, but lived most his childhood at Nantyffyllon near Maesteg until the family moved to Burton-on-Trent in 1939. Even before he could handle the keys correctly, at the age of four, his father gave him piano lessons. By the age of ten he was accompanying his uncle at local Eisteddfods and playing the piano for his elementary school choir. At the age of fourteen, as a soprano soloist he had the pleasure of performing in Maesteg Town Hall. The move to Burton caused a break in his musical activities. Following a period in industry and the RAF he joined the post office service and married Edna, a Burtonian.
Roy joined the Central Methodist Church Choir following an invitation from Harry Hardwick when he attended an evening service at the church. It was also the beginning of a life long friendship and brought together his son Ian with Harry and Thelma’s daughter Linda together in marriage. I became directly involved with Roy when we were invited by Wilf Eames, the conductor at ‘Central’ to take solo items in the “Lamb of God” oratorio along with Stella Atkin (Thelma’s Sister). It is clear that with Roy and Edna’s children attending Sunday School it had re-kindled his interest in music. (A statement Roy made himself.) In addition to the solo work that the children did with his support, Roy was very active with solos and duets as and when required at the church’s social events and concerts. His duetist partner on occasions was Ernie Musk who invited him to Gresley Male Voice Choir’s annual dinner at the Stanhope Arms and was followed up by him joining the choir in 1964. Roy became the conductor of the church choir when Wilf Eames retired, and took on the responsibility of training and conducting the Sunday School Anniversary for a number of years.
As a member of the Gresley choir Roy became a regular soloist. I had the pleasure of joining him in duets, “The Gendarmes Duet”, The “Larboard Watch”, “Linden”, a special Welsh hymn arrangement and others. However, as we know from Ian’s experience of his father, “don’t forget your words!!”. This happened to me when a group of us from Central were entertaining at Newhall Ebenezer church one evening and I fluffed my words in “Larboard Watch”, he was not best pleased.
Roy was appointed the Assistant Conductor in 1975 and became the Conductor in 1977 when Reg Baker retired from the post following 29 years service, the longest in the choir’s history. This was to begin an association between Roy and myself as officers for a period of 18 years with the Male Voice Choir and 9 years with the Boys Choir. I like to believe it was a constructive association. To take over from Reg Baker who had gained the members loyalty for so many years, Roy had “his work cut out”; but soon the choir settled down. Within a few months of taking up his post the choir received an invitation from Crew M.V.C. to join the first ever Festival of Massed English Male Voice Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall in May the following year, 1978. The concert was to be conducted by the Director of the Liverpool Philharmonic, Edmund Walters, who would be providing his arrangements of items based mainly on English Folk songs. The choir was flattered and delighted to take part but “ oh what a challenge!! “. Roy and the choir worked hard and history confirms the outcome, and it was repeated three more times, every other year.
Roy became the first conductor to go on a concert tour abroad with the choir. This came about following an annual concert visit to Albert Village Methodist Church. A lady from the village was over on holiday from Florida and bought a choir recording, gave it to Dr.Magin, a musician and impresario on her return to Florida and the choir was invited to take part in a series of concerts around St.Petersburg. After a lot of fund raising by choir members and support from the local community the tour when ahead in 1984.
In addition to the quality of the performance Roy achieved in concert, the choir had success in Burton Festivals winning the Male Voice Class each year from 1981 to 1989, also five Open Choir Class awards and four Championship awards during the same period.The Burton Festival ceased to operate after this period. Also, in 1987 the choir won the Male Voice Class and Championship in the Derby Festival. There were many notable concerts in this country and abroad during Roy’s time with the baton and not forgetting the performance in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh. No doubt many choir members who enjoyed Roy’s directorship will have their own particular memories to treasure.
Roy and I got to know each other quite well and, to my surprise, he suggested, “what about us joining the leisure centre in some kind of fitness activity like squash”. I did check about squash one day and the differences between the hard and soft ball game etc. but I was not drawn to the game, it seemed to be a bit too energetic for me at that time and Roy was ten years older than me. I didn’t remind him about it and he never mentioned it again.
Roy advised the committee that he wished to retire from his office in 1994 and it was clear that he had finally made up his mind. There had been a number of times in the past when he expressed a wish to retire but we managed to convince him that he shouldn’t. He continued singing with the choir and went on the tour to Ireland. He had also been helping the Boundary Singers since they had lost their Conductor and became permanent in the position throughout his final years. The quality he achieved with the Ladies’ choir was always there and made a big impact in the area.
The Male Voice Choir in 1995 was in the process of forming a Boys’ choir and it was decided to use separate musicians rather than put additional work on the adult choir’s conductor and accompanist. It was agreed that we approach Roy to take it on and he agreed to accept the challenge. Roy joined me on visits to around 50 schools in Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire, backed up with letters to the schools and interested parental.The inaugural meeting was held in Sept. 1996 and a debut performance of 14 boys took place during the Gresley Charity Concert held at Trinity Church, George Street Burton in May 1997. In a period of 9 years the boys performed in many venues in the area, local churches, the Brewhouse Arts Centre on a number of occasions at the annual youth music group concerts, Burton Town Hall in a joint concert of NAC choirs and in Derby Cathedral with the adult choir. Concerts outside the area included a visit to Bryan Hollins son’s Methodist Church in Wantage Oxfordshire, a Charity Exchange visit with the Adult choir to Audley & District MVC in Cheshire and a number of visits to NAC group 10 concerts in the Midlands.
Roy held a number of posts over the years, Assistant Pianist, Executive Committee Member, Vice Chairman, Auditor and Assistant Conductor and ultimately Conductor. He was awarded Life Membership in 1992 in addition to Long Service awards for 21 and 35yrs. He was also presented with a framed certificate designed by Karl Harper and signed by all choir members to acknowledge his services to the male choir when he retired in 1994. He also received an engraved Crystal Decanter in the Christmas concert in 2004 for his work with the boys choir.
Roy was very proud of the performances he achieved with the male voice choir as was evident from his request that the choir performances he conducted be played at his funeral. He had so much to give of his musical expertise - pianist, composer/music arranger, singer and choral director, that many choristers and the general public enjoyed the expression of his many talents in the UK and abroad over the years. There is no doubt that many people have their stories to tell of having participated in the life of Roy Davies. In addition to the happy memories that Edna and his family have to reflect on and must give a great deal of comfort from his achievements. To you all we take this opportunity to extend our sincere condolences and wish you well for the future.
May God be with you.
Ian Charles Davies, 1953-2013.
A Tribute written by Roy Atkins, from the Eulogies given at Ian's funeral by Gillian Shilton, Steve Hickman and Rev Sue Rolls
19th February 2013, Newhall Methodist Church
This is one tribute that I didn’t want to write at this time, for the right reasons. As a long serving member of the choir it always seemed appropriate for me to express the feelings of the choir for a member who has passed away based on my my knowledge of a person’s service. There are of course many aspects of a member’s life other than his choir’s service and I felt totally inadequate to be able to do justice to Ian. I was also deeply upset by his death as were many people and sometimes the right words are difficult to find. With the many funerals of choir members I have attended over the years, yes always sad but often for a member having had a much longer life and sometimes following a long illness. In Ian’s case it was totally different than I had ever experienced and as I advised my wife I was not looking forward to the funeral. I have always been very sensitive and becoming more emotional as I grow older like my dad did and knowing the music and hymns that were going to be sung by the choir and congregation I was worried about being overcome.
I was glad I went ! What a wonderful celebration of Ian’s life it turned out to be.
The first hymn is often used when a male voice choir is in attendance, and it didn’t disappoint - All hail the power of Jesu’s name - to the tune of Diadem. A great start to the service.
The service was led by the Rev. Sue Rolls who handled it very well. Sue announced that we were now to have Triple Tributes to be given by herself, Ian’s Sister Gillian Shilton and Ian’s friend / duettist colleague Steve Hickman. These were first class. As each person finished their contribution you could detect a desire to applaud. The sounds of ---umms from the congregation in appreciation were obvious.
Sue gave a thumbnail history of Ian’s life, born in Stapenhill, giving his dad problems with his vegetable garden. He moved to Newhall when his dad became the Postmaster and attended the Sunday School in this church. He sang a solo on the Anniversary and was told off by his dad, the conductor, for forgetting his words. When he left school he went to Technical College in Burton and followed this with an apprenticeship at Pirelli. He then joined Woodville Polymer as a Quality Control Engineer. Sue explained his meeting with Linda the daughter of their parents friends, Harry and Thelma Hardwick. Following his marriage to Linda he had full and loving family life with daughters Heather and Faye and grandchildren, Ben, Abi, Joe, and Eliot , not forgetting Steve , Andy and their extended family. He Joined Gresley Male Voice Choir and along with Steve Hickman sang ‘Abiding Love’ at Thelma’s Funeral.
Gillian gave an intimate insight into the family life that Ian enjoyed, covering many stories all arranged in poetic verse. She also included an incident that the family have never forgotten when they left baby Helen in her pram outside a shop until some asked where’s the baby. Gill also managed to cover the strict regime that Roy followed to ensure that children were brought up correctly. A long and interesting poem structured to ensure some humorous content whilst reminding us of the pain involved at this time. In complimenting Gillian afterwards expressing how well she managed to cope with dealing with it she explained that she had to be careful on the choice of words in the poem to enable her to read it.
Steve Hickman explained his first meeting with Ian and all the family and how it extended to Ian’s friends, Angie and Graham. Also the routine of going out together for celebrating special events. He also explained Ian’s passion and total commitment to the choir working holidays around choir engagements. This changed when his first grandson Ben came along when he felt had to support Linda with baby sitting, and dropped the choir to a very strong second place. Steve commented that Ian loved his family and always had a smile when another grandchild came along. Steve explained how Ian’s passion for the choir would sometimes cause Ian to upset poeple with his comments but would apologise when he had calmed down, but not retract his main point. He enjoyed singing with Ian, in the baritones and in the duets and commented that the choir has now lost the remaining member of the Davies family, members for the last 60 yrs. Steve explained how Ian had enjoyed the four days in London along with his friends and commented on the shows they had seen. The last concert that Ian sang in and commented on was included in Steve’s tribute. Ian was apparently happy with 99% but not with Sunset Poem. Steve gave a nod to a smiling Karl and closed with the following.
It’s been an honour and privilege to know you. You were a true friend in every sense of the word and meaning. I would like to finish with this poem I found and hope it brings a little comfort to his family and Friends.
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
the days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
let memories surround you , a word someone may say
will suddenly recapture a time , an hour, a day,
that brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments , you will never be apart
and he will live-forever locked safely within your hearts.
The service continued with the choir singing one of Ian’s solo songs - Arise O Sun. Not an easy song to sing for choir, stretching the range of their voices, but the choir performed it well. The final hymn for the congregation was CWM Rhondda. I have not sung since June 2010 but I had to join in on the third verse singing in the bass register and making up my own harmony, sorry Karl. The final item by the choir as the funeral party processed out of the church was Gwahoddiad. An appropriate climax to a funeral service and much appreciated by everyone.
Ian’s contribution to the choir was varied and very impressive. He received his 35 yrs long service award at the Celebrity in October last year. He served 33 of those years on the Executive Committee. This is a record for a normal committee member ie. without portfolio. He took over the post as the choir’s registrar from Geoff Salt in 1990 which he has continued with throughout 22yrs. He served on the Uniform Standing Committee in the mid 80’s until it became combined with the Tour Committee to form the Special Purposes Committee. Ian also served for many years on the Music Committee. As registrar he also played an important roll on Life Membership sub committee since it was established in 1992.
His help was greatly valued in other ways helping with manual work on stage assembling etc. This dates back to the time when he had just joined the choir. We were building the stage in front of the pulpit at West Street Meth.Ch. preparing for the Celebrity Concert. It had been the ‘tradition‘ to place a table in the pulpit for the conductor to stand on to conduct the choir. The consensus at this particular time was there had to be a better way. Ian came up with a solution, he made a steel tubular framed rostrum to fit on the stage with a wooden platform made by John Adams and it worked very well. It became the system for the future.
A little story aside from the choir. I am a member of Swadlincote Probus Retirement club and some years ago we were due to visit Woodville Polymer for a tour. At the time I thought oh, Ian works there, perhaps I’ll get a chance to see what ‘he gets up to.‘ On arrival we were directed into a committee room and waited for someone to take us round. You’ve no doubt guessed. Ian came in and gave us a welcome talk about the company and took us on a very informative tour of the factory. I had just retired from Pirelli so it was useful to look at another rubber process. Incidentally I did in fact give Ian a lift to Pirelli the first day Ian started his apprenticeship.
Talking to Ian a few weeks ago the subject was raised about the choir’s first concert tour to Florida. It was possibly raised because of Ian’s latest diagnosis. Ian was on the list to go to Florida in 1984 and just a few weeks before we were about to leave Ian received the appointment for his heart operation. It was to take place on the Tuesday following the choir’s programmed arrival time in Florida the previous Saturday. A concern for us all for all sorts of reasons. Clearly the priority was for Ian to have his operation. I was somewhat surprised and I suppose relieved that Roy and Edna were prepared to still go ahead with Tour. You can imagine the feeling of the group, 67 in total, assembling for breakfast on the Tuesday of Ian’s operation. I had just started breakfast when Dr.Magin, the impresario/tour coordinator, came up to me and said I understand that your musical director’s son is having a major heart operation today? I confirmed it and he said what will happen if he has to go back to the UK ? To put his mind at rest I said “I will conduct the choir” He walked away and made no further comment. Fortunately, although we hadn’t any concerts that day, because we were 6hrs behind the UK we heard that the operation had gone well even before we left the dining room. I have to say that we were all delighted with the news. Ian’s comment to me when I told him what had happened he just said “Oh it was no problem.”
I had a poignant moment at the choir rehearsal a few days before Ian’s Funeral. The librarian Keith Mitchell gave me a pile of music for the coming year and among it was a copy of Ride the Chariot. The last time we sang it I joined Ian for the duet section. I used to walk over to him in the baritones to sing the tenor part. I think I did alright for him.
There is no doubt that the contribution that Ian made to the choir’s life in music and to it’s many followers has been impressive. His solo selections were varied venturing into the modern items such as ‘You raise me Up’ originally made famous by Josh Groban and sung as a solo by Ian before the choir sang it in concert. We remember items like ‘Count your blessings One by One’, ‘I’ll Walk with God’ `He also reminded me of one of my own solos I sang as a boy soprano- The Hymns My Mother Used to Sing. I have fond memories of Ian’s stellar performances he gave during The Loire Valley tour in France, ‘Once in every Lifetime’ and of course ‘Arise O Sun’.
I filmed the main concerts on the tour and was very disappointed that Ian would not agree with me to include the duet ‘Abiding Love‘ on the disc. Why? Typical of Ian, the performance was not good enough. No doubt he was right but the audience enjoyed it.
I would just like to reflect on the funeral for my final comment. Janet and I arrived early for the funeral and as I sat down and looked around I felt at home. Yes, this was the church were Ian and I were brought up through the Sunday School and eventually singing in the choir. We had witnessed many notable musical events in a capacity filled church. Observing the many faces as they arrived to celebrate Ian’s life I realised that this event was going to be something very special. The faces of the visitors said it all. In addition to many people from the local community, Ian’s work colleagues, members of the Boundary Singers choir, the various local churches and many Gresley Male Voice choir supporters including those outside of the area. The most telling image for me was seeing many exGMVC members dating back to the time prior to Ian joining the choir, faces that I had not seen for years. One particular friend sat behind me, had joined the choir some years ago following the coaxing from Ian at another choir members funeral. A very loyal member, edited the choir’s High Notes Newsletter/ Magazine until he had to retire from the choir due to family commitments.
The atmosphere before the service started was warming up all the time as people arrived. Gerald was taking us a journey through the choir’s repertoire of music on the organ that I’m sure Ian would have appreciated. You could virtually feel the love emanating from the gathering. With the service that followed Roy and his family deserve a great deal of credit for formatting along with Rev. Sue Rolls a very special service for the celebration of Ian’s life. The contribution of Karl, Tanya, Gerald and the choir he loved, providing Ian’s music. I can imagine him, looking down on us, with a smile on his face and saying. “Thank you very much. You’ve done me proud”.
God Bless You All.
Francis Peter Bates, 1931-2013.
Eulogy given by John Wilton, Thursday 31st January 2013,
Service of Celebration for his Life Bretby Crematorium, 11:15am
Peter was born in Oxford St. Church Gresley in what was locally known as Stone Row and he grew up there with his parents and younger sister. He attended York Road school and also the Park Methodist Sunday School
He left school at age 14 and started work at the Co-op and over the following years was to work his way up to become a Branch Manager.
In 1945 he joined the Gresley Male Voice Choir, more of this later, and around the same time joined the Park Methodist Choir (nb.the same chapel where the MVC was formed in 1904).
It was at the youth club at the Park Methodist that he met Hilda
He did his National Service in the RAF based at Morpeth Northumberland.
Peter and Hilda were married in 1954 at Granville Estate Methodist and set up home in Granville St. Woodville.
In 1966, together, they took over and moved into the Granville St. shop/post office- offering a service to the local community. Later when the post office closed and they retired, they continued to live there until 2007 when they moved to a ground floor flat in Princess Close Woodville.
Peter's health started to deteriorate about 13yrs.ago but he was determined to carry on for as long as possible and put up a long and couragous fight which sadly ended a couple of weeks ago
When asked by Peter’s nephew if I would give this tribute to Peter my initial reaction was one of shock and suprise.l had no idea it was coming and said “Are you sure”? “Do you have the right person “?
Why me ? but on reflection having known Peter for at least 64 years, I came to the conclusion that I should share with you some memories and experiences of Peter.
I first remember him from the late 1940s. He was well known to and liked by my parents and at the Primitive Methodist Sunday School, where he , being 11yrs. my senior was a helper/teacher. My memories of the immediate following years are a bit vague but I certainly remember him singing in the Park Choir.
It was several years later before my friendship with Peter was re-established (the age difference not now seeming so big!!) and we went on to find ourselves singing together in 3 different choirs over the next 42 years!!
Imagine my suprise when in Dec 1969 I went along to my first practice at Gresley Male Voice Choir to find that Peter was an established member with nearly 25 years service. He was soon offering me advice and encouragement and it was my pleasure in the early 70’s to sing with him,Alf Cobley and Julian Baker in the choir’s quartet.
He continued to serve the choir with great loyalty as singer in the bass section,soloist, and held several other official positions until his medical condition early last year forced him to retire as a singer -after 67 years.
As he was a Life Member,he continued to get to practices when he could, his total membership finally reaching 68 years. a magnificent record.!
I think this makes him the longest serving member to date.
In 1972 he joined the newly formed Lea Side Singers and soon became fully involved as singer, soloist, duetist, committee member and treasurer. His support to the younger less experienced singers was greatly appreciated throughout the years. Unfortunately he had to retire last October.-but typical of the man. he stepped in at Trinity Church, Linton ,last November, right at the very very last minute to assist a depleted bass section.-this was to be the last time he sang in public.
In addition he had been a long standing member of what is now Swadlincote Messiah Choral Society-singing in the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah for 50 years until 2011 when he had to retire-the Hill St.stairs now too much for him.
He also helped out at several local churches in augmented choirs, to sing at special services and particularly for the special Easter performances of "The Crucifixion" and "Olivet to Calvary"etc. He was always in great demand and as usual always eager to help out when he could.
Three other memories
1) Peter, my brother Alan, Edwin Byford and myself were getting Hilda’s piano
down the stairs at Granville street…what a hair raising experience!!
Peter often in later years would relate this experience to one of the Laurel and Hardy films!
Hilda reminded me this week,-she gave us a decent sized bar of chocolate
each. She said to Peter after the three of us had gone –“What do you think
they will do with them ?” His reply –“I don't know, but don’t worry about
John's,- his will probably be gone by the time they get to Granville Hill!!”
2) Peter was very interested in sport, particularly football and cricket.In the
70’s, we were both avid Derby fans and together went on 3 April 1976 full of
excitement and anticipation to the FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough, Sheffield
to see Derby play Manchester.Utd. What a disappointment- Derby froze, didn t
compete and were easily beaten….not a lot was said on the way home.
3) I mentioned helping out at local churches and I remember one particular
run up to Easter. Where we stood an enormous crack had appeared in the
wall and it was blowing through lke a gale. “I can’t put up with this “ he said
and for the following practices came along with Sellotape to put over the offending area.!!
4) Peter could be quite forthright in his opinions but you always new where he
stood on any topic. If he didn't agree with you he would say so, sometimes
quite forcibly-but no malice was held-
He has been a loyal, hardworking, generous and very supportive member of the choirs he has sung with and also to the National Association of Choirs, Midlands East Group where he served as a member and also Treasurer for a time
68 years service to Gresley Male Voice Choir,
50 years service to Swadlincote Messiah Choral Society and
42 years service to the Lea Side singers !!
A truly remarkable achievement by a man totally dedicated to his love of choral singing
Francis Peter Bates, 1931-2013.
Tribute to Peter Bates – contributed by Roy Atkins, 31st January 2013
Although we have lost a friend and loyal member of the choir, a first class singer from the front line of the bass section, we should remember his contribution to the choir over many years.Peter was one of the first to be awarded Life Membership. It was commented on at the AGM that Peter had set a membership record of 67 yrs, which is unlikely to be beaten in our lifetime.
The previous longest serving member was Godfrey Hull, a founder member in 1904 up to 1962.Peter was a native of Church Gresley and attended the Primitive Methodist Chapel opposite Lea Memorial Park, where the choir was formed. He was very much involved with all the music of chapel, and sang in the choir. It is not surprising then that he joined the male voice choir when it restarted its rehearsals at the end of the war in 1945.
He had an impressive service record within the administration of the choir. Peter served on the original Management Committee prior to the setting up of the formal Constitution, served on the Music Committee for sometime, 31yrs on the Executive Committee, 16yrs as the Choir's Auditor (a duty he also carried out for the Mavoro Ladies Club). He also served on the four-man Life Membership Sub committee since the award was introduced in 1992.
Peter enjoyed his singing and went for some lessens with school teacher and choir's accompanist at the time Shiela Garside, so that he could sing solos for the choir, which he did on a number of occasions. His singing was not confined to the male voice choir, he also joined the New Methodist Singers in 1972 (later renamed The Leeside Singers) and the Messiah Choir in Swadlincote about the same time as myself in the 50's. He was always prepared to help out at other churches for special events, as he did for my own church, Newhall Central Methodist with Easter performances such as The Crucifixion or Olivet to Calvary etc.
When I joined the choir in 1949 Peter and I became friends. We were the young ones in the choir. He enjoyed cricket and I remember when we were both on holiday in north Wales. Peter, Hilda and friends in Llandudno, Janet and myself and family in Conway we met up at Erias Park in Colwyn Bay and played a friendly game of Cricket. We once played tennis in Woodville Recreation Ground which was one of their pastimes before they took on the Post Office.
Peter and I would sometimes reminisce about the earlier events in the choir. It was strange, when I spoke to Peter the last time he was at rehearsal he mentioned he'd seen someone who mentioned the time we used to sing around the Burton Hospitals the first Sunday of each new year. He commented on the fact that we would go around the wards where there were quite sick people at the Burton hospital and sing to them – “Steel Away”, he appreciated the humour and irony of it all.
I had a great deal of respect for Peter in committee. You knew if he was dissatisfied with the choir's performance at a recent concert he would make his views known at the next meeting. Music was everything to Peter. I remember when the choir committee put forward the proposal to introduce a formal uniform. He was very much against it. His comment was, I quote - "a uniform is not going to make us sing any better".But, a clear demonstration of his loyalty: Peter went along with the choir's decision and was indeed proud to wear the uniform.
We could all learn a great deal from Peter's life and appreciate what he did for the choir. He blessed the choir with his talents, supported the choir to the full with an attendance second to none, and his general demeanor to his colleagues in the choir and to the outside world had “Gresley” written all over it. To Hilda, her family and friends, we express our sincere condolences and say a very big “Thank you” for the support you have given Peter and the choir over many years.
God bless you all. You have a treasure of worthy memories of Peter's life.
Tribute to Ken Nichols – contributed by Roy Atkins 24th February 2012
I find it difficult to choose the appropriate words to express my feelings for Ken's unfaltering loyalty to the choir during the 33 years of his membership. He had a quiet demeanour but that did not deter him from helping the choir. A year after he joined when the celebrity concert was transferred to Burton town hall he put his professional abilities to work for the choir. He was employed by Central Electricity Generating Board at Drakelow Power Station where he was the Head Gardener in the green houses and provided floral decoration on the stage for many years until he retired.
Ken travelled on all the foreign tours and choir exchange visits when he was able and put to good use his main hobby of photography which the choir members enjoyed, recalling many happy memories. In 1987 I asked him if he would use a video camera on the choir's tour to Germany