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Obituary: ALAN SPEDDING

by
21 March 2014

Simon Lindley writes:
ALAN SPEDDING, a church musician of devotion, distinction, very wide influence, and a rare capacity for friendship, who was for 42 years Organist and Director of Music at Beverley Minster, died in hospital on Ash Wednesday, after a short illness.

Trained in London at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with John Birch, he served at St John's, Wimbledon (as a successor to the great "King of Light Music", Albert W. Ketèlbey), and for three years at Kingston Parish Church, before moving to Yorkshire in 1967. It was at Wimbledon that he andhis wife, Ann, were married. There are two sons and six grandchildren.

Besides his distinguished work for the church, Alan Spedding was much in demand as choral trainer, conductor, and teacher, contributing notably to the work of organisations including the Royal College of Organists (of which he was a Fellow), the Incorporated Association of Organists, and the Royal School of Church Music. For many years he was Associate Editor of Organists' Review, the IAO's house journal, and a respected Council Member and Examiner to the RCO. He served as first President of the Hull and East Riding Organ Group.

But it was the Minster work that was at the heart of all he did, and the careful restoration of the fine Snetzler/Hill instrument in 1995, by Wood of Huddersfield, a project that he masterminded, brought him much pleasure; his regular recitals there over the years enjoyed widespread support. Beverley Grammar School and the University of Hull also claimed his energies and commitment.

As colleague and friend, he wasa joy - steadfast, loyal, mild-mannered, and delightfully good-humoured, with a great sense of fun.

A musician of real discernment, in his performances he fused enterprise and excellence in a very special way. Recitals and concerts bore the mark of scholarly and yet imaginative preparation; broadcasts and recordings added to his reputation, and that of the Minsterchoir he trained so effectively forso long. His great work withHull Choral Union and the East Riding Choir was widely acclaimed.

The list of compositions for choir and organ increased as the years went by,and his organ output includes well-craftedsets of variant treatments of plainchant melodies - Urbs beata of 1998 and Victimae Paschali laudes from 2001 - dedicated to Hull University Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Dilks, and his wife, Jill, and Huddersfield Town Hall's organist Gordon Stewart respectively. A third set of variations, founded on the Marian office hymn Ave, maris stella, followed in 2010.

The recipient of an honorary doctorate of music from the University ofHull 20 years ago, Alan Spedding was appointed MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 2003, and awarded the honorary diploma of Associate of the RSCM in 2006.

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