As we began the busy run up to Christmas I couldn’t help but reflect on the last 22 years that I have been here. The first thing I asked myself was “Where has the time gone?” I have spent all but one year of my working life, since leaving university, involved with the music at Romsey Abbey. Both our children were born and have grown up during this time; they have never known anything other than my association with this place and they, together with Diane, have become wrapped up in choir life as well.
I have seen countless choirboys grow into confident young men and it is always good to bump into them from time to time. I have watched choir men’s children that I have known from being toddlers leave home and begin to make their way successfully in the adult world. There are others that have been associated with the choir who are, sadly, no longer with us.
Only the other day, Diane asked me how many services I have done during this time, so I was prompted to do a quick calculation. Basing my arithmetic on 46 Sundays a year, I calculate that I will have done 1,012 Sundays or some 2,024 services, not counting all the extra Feast Days and Festivals! That makes 2,024 sermons as well!
However, my time here has been much more than raw statistics. Rather, it has been a great experience and joy, even through the difficulties that have, inevitably, presented themselves on occasions. I have enjoyed the company and friendship of some very loyal and dedicated people, working with them week in and week out to bring about something very special as we sought to enhance with music the worship that goes on at the Abbey. This has extended out beyond the choir members themselves and has brought in choir families as well.
The stability on the back rows has been quite remarkable and has allowed me to build on the foundations that I inherited when I took over the running of the Choir in 1990. The enthusiasm and willingness of the boys to tackle new and often difficult music is very rewarding. The frustration of seeing boys come and go, as is inevitable in a choir of this sort, is soon forgotten as I witness the next generation grow in confidence and musical maturity, changing from being followers into musical leaders. This Christmas, the services were tackled with one of the youngest line up of boys that I can remember. I am delighted to be able to hand over to my successor a dedicated, enthusiastic and flourishing choir.
During my time I was fortunate enough to do what many organists hope that they might be able to do: to have major work done to the organ. In the case of the Abbey, the organ was transformed from the perilous state it had reached in the early 1990s and transformed during 1995 and 1996 as befits its pedigree as one of the most historically significant instruments in the country. By the time the nave organ was finished in 1999, the project had taken over 8 years in total.
I shall miss being up at the front on Sundays, but I look forward to enjoying the music from the other side of the crossing. It has been a great privilege to be able to work and worship in what must surely be one of our finest Abbey and Parish Churches.