Remarks to the 2021 Annual General Meeting

Incoming President, Dr Simon Lindley

It has been my pleasure to be a member of the Association for well over forty years with the last few finding my name added to the list of Honorary Life Members.

I have on a number of occasions enjoyed the opportunity to give regular talks and musical presentations to the membership on a great diversity of subject matter, but this if the first time [for me personally] within the category nowadays constantly referred to by the designation virtual.

Firstly, I send personal good wishes to each and every one of you, and to yours. It is my earnest hope that you are all keeping well and in good health as far as may be possible in these very strange times.

Regular opportunities have come my way in recent months to communicate verbally with something like two dozen of the organisations for which it is [or in LOA terms will become] my privilege to be of service. A number of these, principally at present the Church Music Society, recently under dynamic leadership in the posts of Chairman and General Editor along with the English Hymnal Company and its associated charitable trust [The Ecclesiastical Music Trust] as well as Sheffield Bach Choir, Doncaster Choral Society and Overgate Hospice Choir in Halifax.

Since retirement from the Parish Church/Minster in Autumn 2016 and Leeds Town Hall in April 2017, I have enjoyed playing and directing tasks elsewhere – especially at Halifax Minster and St Wilfrid’s Harrogate as a stand-in or interim musician.

I have between 14 March 2020 and New Year’s Weekday 2021 not been involved in public in music-making at all. That is, I suspect, the fate of a great many in our own field/s brought about as it is by national and more recently local restrictions. A very welcome invitation to present a programme on a fine Lewis instrument in York [Priory Concerts 2021 Youtube is where they’re [perhaps still] to be found.] I took up the kind invitation from Nigel Holdsworth to play ‘Mildred’ with some apprehension and a good deal of realisation as to quite how much practice is needed when you’re no longer engaged in such endeavour pretty well weekly and, towards big festivals, daily. However, the recording and skill of Max Elliott helped to achieve a programme. To both, I would pay particular thanks.

We are now in the position, perhaps, of seeing a possible way forward emerging from the three lockdowns we have been in, and in the most recent case still remain. The confident ebullience of those in authority has begun to appear far more cautious than has been the case. Could it be that we are to embrace a period of gradual exit from our present situation and less of the characteristics of a constant ‘to-ing and fro-ing” or stop/start scenario. One certainly hopes so!

It is said widely that so many events have been “cancelled” or “postponed” – somehow, such designations seem to imply that the individual or the organisation has been decisive in such a matter. I feel strongly that events which have, perforce, not taken place as hoped should be referred to in reportage as “abandoned” – gone but by means forgotten! Somehow abandonment seems to speak of an occurrence which is very much not of our own making but which circumstances have conspired to bring it about.

A huge advantage is the legacy of a fully planned programme from last year, and I hope very much to be able to include more than a few items still available to us in appetising prospect.

The great unknown is knowing when we can safely recommence meeting together in person.

There is no easy answer, though one may possibly come forward for us sooner rather than later. But an honest and realistic vision is likely to prove anything of a ‘quick fix’. We must bide our time patiently, almost certainly circulating some kind of questionnaire during the course of March and the Committee needs to meet in full when the results are received from the wider membership.

Special thanks are due to Nick Seddon for agreeing to accept nomination as Secretary for the coming year. He is already our Web Master, and combining the two offices just at present seems to make thorough good sense. We thank Charlie Brown for his stewardship of the post over the past very difficult year.

Similarly, we have had several potential committee members ready for your consideration waiting in the wings and this evening elected. We give all new and existing officers and committee members a warm welcome!

For all this, I thank outgoing President Philip Wilby for his careful zeal and planning in the period leading up this meeting and, indeed, for his stalwart and wise leadership of a memorable term as President of the Association.

His peroration last year included appropriate and relevant quotes from the legendary Charles Darwin.

I leave you with a quotation much beloved of my late father: “It is what it is”.

A slightly less tolerant mantra of his was ‘Rules are mad for the slavish obedience of the foolish and the gentle guidance of the wise”. I remember as a teenage member of his PCC in Oxford first hearing that at a meeting and holding my breath somewhat in the silence that followed to be broken by the leading female member of the council - who only very rarely agreed with anyone - who uttered, audibly, “Quite right, Father, quite right” to everyone’s astonishment.

We have much to do and a need to develop further new ways of working to our potential advantage.

Thank you, one and all, for your support of the Leeds Organists’ Association – now 85 years young!