Remarks to the 2021 Annual General Meeting

from the Outgoing President, Philip Wilby

I choose to begin these remarks by a heartfelt vote of thanks to those officers and committee members of the Association who showed such energy and flexibility during the current pandemic. That we have managed to keep active at all is entirely due to their efforts, and we are all in their debt.

 

As is well known, this AGM will be my last as President, and you will forgive me if I start these comments with a brief moment of reminiscence.

 

Thinking back over recent years in the life and times of the LOA, I remember the occasion when Gordon Appleton invited me to rejoin the LOA. Equally well, I remember when he invited me to stand as his President Elect. I can remember the moment when I last saw him as he came back from hospital, and the news that he had died in action at the organ on Easter Day 2017. I can also remember taking over his programme with the help of David Wilks and Roland Dee and how hard we all worked to deliver Gordon’s last year’s timetable in a way that did justice to his memory. I can remember how much I enjoyed last year’s outings, the splendid Movie night with Darius, Charlie Chaplin and free ice-creams. I can remember David Pipe’s masterly performance of La Nativité at St Anne’s or the multi-player performance of Clavierübung 3 which preceded it. Most tellingly of all, I remember the teaching sessions that enlivened us all, with Graham Barber, Margaret Phillips, and David Pipe. I remember the outstanding organ festivals, in Ripon in Leeds, at the Town Hall recital where we were allowed an open console session after it. So many happy memories, enlivened with guest speakers, Paul Hale, Philip Moore, and Matthew Owens.

 

Who then could have foreseen how things would have turned out 12 months ago. We enjoyed a fine meal, Matthew Owens flew in from Belfast to talk about kindness, and we said our thanks and farewells to David and Nelson after their long service on our committee. By happy and providential coincidence, last year’s AGM also saw the election of new members to the committee. Catherine Harris joined us, and she lowers the average age by a healthy margin. Andrew Kingscote, with his medical background, joined two technologists, Charlie Brown and Nick Seddon to complete the 2020 committee. What a Godsend they have all been. Within weeks, all church playing ceased, Easter was silent, organs mouldered, and we faced a novel situation where our fellowship only existed online.

 

However, cometh the hour cometh the man and the woman, and I must congratulate our new members for their inventive and energetic embrace of new situations. This year has been a sequence of new situations which no-one could have imagined last February.

 

We have been invited to add music videos to our website. Graham Barber clearly gets the Presidential medal on this count for his many fascinating and varied ‘Organcasts’, and many other members took the opportunity to contribute to a growing and expanding website, expertly managed by Nick Seddon and Charlie Brown. We have held our committee meetings via ZOOM, and all enjoyed a couple of memorable sessions in the autumn, sharing some teaching with David Pipe on hymns, voluntaries, and chorale preludes, and enjoying a socially distanced Christmas recital with our fellow travellers. This even climaxed with a newly composed Christmas duet played jointly by Philip Meaden in Filey and myself in my Garden shed in Ripon. It was simply a case of ‘keep calm and carry on’ and we have all enjoyed the fun.

 

Such then have been my recent years as your President. No-one could have written it down in advance, and the most inventive creator of Science Fiction could never hope to publish a script so far-fetched…. And yet…… such has been our shared experience.

 

It has been my pleasure to serve you all, and I look forward to the next chapter with equal anticipation. No-one can say that the local Organists’ Association is dull… as Donald Trump famously said on another occasion…… It was WILD!

 

At this meeting we say our thanks and farewells to three of our number whose efforts have contributed hugely to the recent success of LOA, and whose energy has kept the Association afloat and positive over the last year.

 

Tim Gray, who has served as Treasurer and co-author of the constitution, stands down this year. We have asked him to stay on, but he prefers to hand the reins to younger hands, play his Hauptwerk organ, and enjoy his status as the Associations’ most recent life-member.

 

Tim, on behalf of everyone here we thank you most warmly for your long service, and hope that we can all meet up soon.

Please accept this well-deserved round of Applause!

 

David Pipe has had a most surprising year when his teaching, examining, and performing, as Cathedral Organist at St Anne’s, RCO examiner, and teacher of choice for a great cohort of young players in the Diocese of Leeds was all placed online. Understandably he feels that his time is very stretched and that this is his moment to step aside. For my part, David, you have always been a great support to me personally and very generous with your time. Your teaching sessions ‘Play Bach’ and ‘Sweet Songs of Zion’ have been inspirational to all who heard them, and we are all in your debt.

Here then, with our thanks, is a second well-deserved round of Applause!

 

Last but not least, it comes as no surprise that I wish to single Charlie Brown out for a special vote of thanks. As head Verger at Ripon Cathedral, and as a professional IT specialist, Charlie has been at the heart of many of our successes, and has proved to be the perfect person to help the Association in the peculiar circumstances it has enjoyed over the last year. A professional of real distinction, Charlie also possesses the common touch which is so essential in a mixed group like ours where performers of international reputation rub shoulders with their amateur colleagues in a shared love of our favourite instrument.

 

Charlie has been our ‘Man for all Seasons’ and we are all truly sorry that events have conspired to compel you to stand down. However, rest assured that we are grateful for the huge amount that you have given to us over recent months. When many similar organisations have been obliged to go into mothballs, you have helped us to keep in touch, make music, and learn for one another.

 

Charlie, we thank you most warmly for freely sharing your many gifts and we hope to see you again as soon as is practical.

 

Here is a third round of socially distanced applause!

 

Finally, I would like to extend my own thanks to you all for the support that I have enjoyed as President. I have loved the variety of people, the variety of musical opportunities. Who could forget the trip to Manchester Cathedral when we had the building to ourselves on a Saturday evening, the chance to play the recently rebuilt organ in Selby Abbey, or the chance to hear about Karg-Elert’s music for Harmonium in St Bart’s with Graham Barber.

 

From my school days in Leeds, I was trained to be a professional musician, playing the violin and composing freely. However, the organ was always a guilty pleasure, which as a keen amateur I have enjoyed as an inextinguishable hobby.

 

Serving as your President has been a real privilege for which I thank you all.

 

PHILIP WILBY

February 2021

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