A Country Cathedral Organist Looks Back 1939-1978
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
Serendipity £12.95 (1-84394-168-6)
The food of a lifetime, as well as of love: Helen Burrows
enjoys some lively reminiscences of years spent in the organ loft
THIS fascinating and absorbing autobiography offers a personal
and anecdotal retrospective on the many characters who have populated the world
of church music since the 1950s. Beginning with a brief family history, the
author chronicles his personal and family life from his birth, through his
education, and into the early years of his career as a cathedral organist.
Few of Gedge’s family, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances are missing
from the pages, as Gedge traces his education through his time as a chorister
at Southwark Cathedral and St Olave’s School, and his student years, to his
appointments at St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, Selby Abbey, and Brecon Cathedral.
Anecdotes abound, from those about the temperamental Sydney Cambell, a superb
musician and perfectionist, who was prone to throwing hymn-books, to ones about
the redoubtable Dr C. H. Moody, CBE, FRCO, who successfully objected to the
proposed installation of Epstein’s statue Ecce Homo in Selby Abbey.
At the Royal Academy of Music, Gedge met his wife, Hazel Davies, and began a
musical partnership that continues to this day. Both were students of C. H.
Trevor, known to organ students as editor of the series
The Progressive Organist.
Many a parish and cathedral organist will identify with the frustrations at
lack of funding, support, and appreciation which are described here. The
narrative is unassuming and honest; extremely funny at times; thoughtful; and
even forceful on occasion. However, the overriding impression is one of
conviction, hard work, commitment, and an enduring partnership.
With his wife, David Gedge’s life’s work has been raising musical standards
so as to enhance the liturgy, first at Selby Abbey and then at Brecon
Cathedral, where he has now been Director of Music for nearly 40 years. The
narrative ends in 1978. I hope an account of the next 30 years is still to
Dr Burrows is Director of Music at St George’s RAF Chapel, Biggin Hill, and
at Combe Bank School. She is also Examinations Secretary for the Guild of
The book can be had from David Gedge at Garth Cottage, 29 Pendre, Brecon
LD3 9EA (01874 622442) for £12.95 plus £2.50 p. &p.