MICHAEL FLEMING, the musician, who died on 10 January, aged 77, was the son
of a clergyman who died when Michael was a young boy. Michael was educated at
St Edmund’s School, Canterbury, and later at Durham University, where he
studied under Professor Arthur Hutchings.
He did his National Service in the RAF, and retained a love of, and interest
in, aeroplanes all his life. After an initial appointment at St Giles’s,
Cambridge, he moved to Chingford Parish Church. At Easter 1958, aged 30, he was
appointed Director of Music at All Saints’, Margaret Street.
He looked back with great happiness on his period of work there — a period
that spanned the final decade of the Choir School. The singing he obtained from
the boys was outstanding (they were better than most cathedral choirs), and
fortunately some of the performances have been captured on disc. The boys took
part in the first performance of A Boy was Born, and in a recording of the Eton
Michael Fleming went on to distinguished service in four other churches —
Croydon Parish Church, St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, St Alban’s, Holborn, and
finally St Michael’s, West Croydon, to which he was appointed in 1998, when he
was 70. Few organists of that age would cheerfully take on a challenging new
job. Yet, in the seven years from his appointment, he transformed the choir and
attracted many new singers, including a good many young people. Michael was a
great communicator and motivator with all age groups, as was found during his
time working at the Royal School of Church Music.
His little mannerisms, the infectious chuckle, the throwaway remarks, were
all part of his friendly approach, which endeared him to many. That combined
with his natural musical ability as a sure recipe for success. He had great
energy, even in his mid-70s. He maintained a youthful zest for life, and never
really attained old age.
Not only Anglo-Catholics, but all church musicians, have lost a great
supporter and a faithful friend. The wider Church has lost an outstanding
musician, who combined rare talent with a great sense of Christian
discipleship. He will be remembered with affection, especially when his great
tune Palace Green, set appropriately in
The New English Hymnal to the words "Sing praise to God who reigns
above", is sung.