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John Ewington

28 August 2015

Indefatigable: John Ewington

Indefatigable: John Ewington

June Williams writes:

JOHN EWINGTON, who died on 15 August, aged 79, was OBE, KLJ, MA (Lambeth), FGCM, DipChMus (Lond), ACertCM, HonFCSM, HonFFCM, HonRSCM, FGMS, Hon. Associate of the University of Newcastle NSW, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer at the Conservatorium School of Music and Drama in the Faculty of Education and Arts.

I have quoted all of John’s qualifications and honours because he was, quite rightly, proud of every one of them. Here was a man who could not go to university, because of family commitments, but who achieved much, studying church music at Goldsmith’s College, and eventually being awarded a Lambeth degree. He wrote two books. One was a textbook of church music, Landmarks in Christian Worship and Church Music, co-written with Canon Arthur Dobb. The other was his autobiography, Now What?

For many people, he was the Guild of Church Musicians. His association with the Guild began in 1967, when he saw an advertisement in the Church Times and decided to take the Archbishop’s Certificate in Church Music. He subsequently became the General Secretary. His unceasing energy and commitment to the cause of church music never diminished. Many organists and choirmasters in ordinary parishes have reason to be grateful to John for his encouragement and gentle support through the Guild. The Guild of Church Musicians grew, with his careful nurturing, and excellent financial management from Ron Cayless, to the strong organisation that it is today.

John’s business career was in insurance, specialising in musical instruments. His work as a church organist reflected his own stance in church music. There were various parish jobs, and several, contemporaneously, in the City of London. For a long time, he was organist and director of music at St Katharine Cree, though his association with the City Singers went back to 1974 — and the City Singers are still going strong. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, John’s work at Cree Church was not, latterly, appreciated, and he left.

For just over 31 years, John was organist and choirmaster of Blechingley Parish Church (he insisted, always, on omitting the “t”, giving the village the “ancient” spelling). He had an excellent relationship with the Revd Ronald Brownrigg, and then an equally good one with the Revd Dr John Frederick. It was with great sadness that John left Blechingley Church after a subsequent rector took a different approach to music and, consequently, the organist and choirmaster.

John then took up deputising in a number of churches, where his experience and skill was hugely appreciated. Happily, John became a great friend of the present rector, the Revd Peter Moseling, and his wife, Ann, sometimes deputising at Blechingley Church. He will be remembered with great affection in the parish.

John’s manner could, at first, suggest pomposity, particularly his slightly mannered speech. A few moments in his company, however, disclosed that he was warm and generous, with a genuine concern for people. That concern was expressed quietly. The occasional telephone call, letters, and emails did much to help and encourage many people. As indicated above, he stood up to one cleric in firm and decisive terms about helping those who were down; that virtually cost him a job as organist. In this he was always courageous and fearless.

John was an indefatigable letter writer. His letters often made the pages of the better-quality press, including the Church Times. The views were kindly expressed and always well-balanced, with due regard for people.

Although about to commence treatment for cancer, he died quietly in his sleep. He is survived by his wife, Hélène, and his sons, Simon and Jonathan. May he rest in peace.

The funeral will be held at St Mary the Virgin, Blechingley, at noon on Friday 4 September.

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