02 November 2006

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 Choirbook.

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.

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