Obituary: Anthony J. Cooke

by
26 October 2012

Respected musician: Anthony Cooke

Respected musician: Anthony Cooke

Dr Simon Lindley writes:

AFTER education in his home city of Birmingham, and the organ scholarship of Keble College, Oxford, Anthony Cooke, organist, choirmaster, and schoolmaster, made his home in Leeds. He was for a quarter of a century the respected director of music at Leeds Grammar School (LGS). He died on 6 October.

Significant among formative influences on Cooke's life and career were Dr Willis Grant of Birmingham Cathedral and Sir Thomas Armstrong, Organist of Christ Church, Oxford, and later Principal of the Royal Academy of Music.

Cooke's early posts had taken him to Highgate School, and from there back to the Midlands as Organist and Choirmaster of Edgbaston Old Church (St Bartholomew's), and Music Master at Aston Grammar School. The move to Yorkshire came in 1964.

The Chapel Choir at LGS in those days sang choral services on Sundays, as well as the early-morning assemblies then held daily. Under Cooke's direction, the Binns organ in the chapel was restored by Wood, Wordsworth, and became widely regarded as one of the finest such instruments in the north of England. When the number of weekend choral services was reduced, Cooke took the chapel choir out to the parish churches and cathedrals in the locality, and undertook significant choral outreach in so doing. At least eight LGS sixth-formers achieved university organ scholarships under Cooke's guidance. Other prominent members of the musical profession to emerge from the school during his tenure included the international countertenor Robin Blaze.

Cooke's playing was a feature of trail-blazing LPs made in the late 1960s by the Choir of Leeds Parish Church under Donald Hunt's inspiring training. Cooke can still today be heard on a Christmas recording with Huddersfield Choral Society and the Black Dyke Band - two world-famous West Riding ensembles; on this disc, now re-mastered as a best selling CD, the much-loved Bradford Cathedral Organist of the day, Keith Rhodes, directs the world-renowned Huddersfield choir with Cooke accompanying on the organ.

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Cooke was for many years organ adviser to the diocese of Ripon, and served for a period in retirement as organist of the parish church of Pool-in-Wharfedale. Other institutions supported by him were Leeds Parish Church, where he was for four decades a valued trustee of its Friends of the Music organisation, Leeds Organists' Association, and the Royal School of Church Music. Cooke was a great lover of the liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Authorised Version of the Bible.

He was nationally and internationally known as the highly regarded Secretary and Treasurer of the Benevolent Fund of the Incorporated Association of Organists, a position held with much devotion for some 30 years. Additionally, he was for a long period Console Steward of choice at the practical examinations of the Royal College of Organists, held in St Paul's Hall at the University of Huddersfield.

He was a generous giver of money and time to many causes. The recently installed Kenneth Tickell instrument in Keble Chapel was a project supported by Cooke as a substantial donor to his old college.

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