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Obituary: Christopher Kingsley

18 September 2015

Musician-mayor: Mr Kingsley

Musician-mayor: Mr Kingsley

Sue Osmaston writes:

AS A boy, Christopher Kingsley, who died on 5 August, aged 72, served as a chorister at St Andrew’s, Westcliff-on-Sea, in Essex, and first learned to play the organ there.

He was introduced to his faith by his mother, Nancy. The greatest influence in his subsequent musical life was the organist at the time: Mr Manton, a highly talented choirmaster who also instilled in his pupils the belief that it was not their place to make the service greater than God. Christopher always said that it was being given the opportunity to conduct at an early age at Westcliff which set him on the path to conducting in later life.

When he left school at 16, Christopher was apprenticed to Mander Organ Builders, which stood him in good stead when he led the rebuilding of the organ of St John’s, Danbury, after the front pipes were stolen. He even removed some stop linkages from the newly rebuilt organ, so that a visiting wedding organist couldn’t use the new stops before the organ had been consecrated.

Later, Christopher joined the firm of Marconi, where he served a five-year technical apprenticeship. My husband was intrigued one day to find him sitting at his workbench, designing a rank of organ stops.

In 1977, he decided to leave engineering and embark on a teaching career. He trained at Brentwood College and Colchester Institute, where he gained his education and musical qualifications. He founded the Lingwood Consort, a chamber choir that became distinguished in Essex for a cappella performances for nearly 40 years; he directed the consort with energy, skill, and huge enthusiasm. At the same time, he was organist, choirmaster, and subsequently Director of Music at St John’s, Danbury, for 47 years.

One of Christopher’s pet hates was the “last-line playover” so often heard in broadcasts of church services. He was a stickler for maintaining the rhythm between the verses of hymns, which prevented the need for a “gathering” note. The result of his training sessions with the choir at Danbury was that the congregational singing improved greatly, and everyone felt secure.

A Conservative, he served his community in politics too, as District Councillor, and serving on both Danbury Parish Council and Chelmsford Borough Council. For a while he acted as leader of Chelmsford Borough Council, and he was cabinet member for Parks and Heritage. Latterly, he became closely involved with arrangements for the V Festival at Hylands House.

The great highlights for both Christopher and his wife, Marian, in the civic life of the borough, were the two periods in which he served as Mayor of Chelmsford: first, from 1993 to 1994, and later, from 2012 to 2013, when Chelmsford had just achieved city status.

Christopher was diagnosed with motor neurone disease early in 2014, but, before he died, was able to put together his funeral service, containing some of his favourite music; he even specified the registration to be used on the organ — so typical of his attention to detail. Christopher is survived by his wife, and their sons, Martin, Simon, and Richard, all three of whom are engineers and musicians.

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