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Obituary: Dr Colin Hand

04 September 2015

Canon Alan Dutfield and others write:

DR Colin Hand, who died on 6 August, aged 86, was a staunch member and servant of the Church of England. He had made his career as a composer, and general servant of music, during the past 40 years. His doctoral research on a Tudor composer, undertaken in the 1970s, resulted in John Taverner: His life and music (1978).

He loved the organ, and there are many people who have benefited from that love. Much of his work was for instrumentalists, performing on Radio 3; and innumerable schoolchildren learned to play the recorder using his many books.

There were also some choral works. One, the Gainsborough Psalms, was a commission from the Gainsborough Choral Society; it is an 18-minute canticle for solo, chorus, and orchestra, based on psalms and canticles in the Book of Common Prayer. It has also been performed by other choirs.

He gave two particular services to music in the Church of England and elsewhere. The first was as a member of the group of highly qualified musicians gathered by Kevin Mayhew Ltd to edit the music of the New Anglican Edition of Hymns Old and New, which has become very widely used. Hand was particularly active in this, and made several hymns more singable.

The other service was an attempt, prompted by his love of the organ, to do something about the continuing decrease in the number of organists. He persuaded Kevin Mayhew to publish One Foot At a Time, on full manuscript-size paper, in which he arranged 12 well-known tunes with very simple organ pedal parts added, and simple instructions how to use them. He hoped that some pianists might thereby gain the courage to face an organ. Whatever the result may be, the book deserves well, as does its sequel, Another Foot at a Time, with some 30 popular pieces arranged in ascending order of difficulty.

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