Gerald David Burton
BA, MSc (Econ)
Co-founder of the St Hugh Singers
Gerald died peacefully – at his home, as he wanted – of lung cancer at around seven o’clock on the morning of 26 August. He had been ill for several months.
Many have written in tribute to Gerald, and this webpage of the St Hugh Singers – (which he and I jointly founded) provides a medium in which those tributes can be given a wider coverage. Also on this page can be found the full text of his memorial service on 10 November.
Gerald and I first met 40 years ago, and were close friends for most of them. He was best man at both my weddings and, quite apart from our deep interest in church music, we shared both a somewhat whimsical sense of humour and a near obsession with spotting typographical errors, which we would with glee relay to each other over our mobile phones. I will miss that – and him.
We were so saddened with your news of Gerald’s death – more particularly because we did not know he was ill. My connection with him is really as a fellow tenor with the London Chorale, which Mary and I joined in 1977, and were members for about 10 years We moved back to Scotland in 1990 but kept in touch with old friends – Gerald visited us about 14 years ago, for a long weekend, and had ‘a go’ on Dunblane Cathedral’s new Flentrop organ (I was a member of the choir then).
Gerald at the Dunblane Cathedral ‘Flentrop’
We saw him several times in Wells when the Dunblane choir did a week’s summer services stint there a few years ago. He would also phone me from time to time with a civil engineering terminology translation query. He spoke often over the years, with affection, about your St Hugh Singers. So – a sad passing of a great chap.
Bill & Mary Craig
On the Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond
Gerald, Bill and Bach
Gerald was a gentleman and will be greatly missed by all St Hugh Singers.
Gerald and I joined the choir of St Mary’s Lowgate Hull in 1950, and were together members of choir and altar guild until the early ’60s. All good wishes for the future of the St Hugh Singers.
Jill, and I were very close friends of Gerald for many years from the time he arrived in Wells until our moving to Sark in 2001. We shared the driving duties to the pub for a late evening drink most days, and we had his company at many social events surrounding our lives in Wells and the Cathedral. It was a greatly valued friendship.
The earth belongs unto the Lord
And all that it contains,
Except the Highland piers and lochs –
For they are all MacBrayne’s.
Anon. – but compare Church Hymnary #73
(metrical version of Psalm 24)
Josie and I were very saddened to learn of Gerald’s untimely death, although it was anticipated and must have been a blessed relief. Speaking as one tenor of another, my abiding memory is of how he would permanently monitor all that was going in the tenor line and be ready with firm by gentle advice. I suspect this service spilled over into other parts as well from time to time!
Amongst all his musical activities, he was a member of the Grove Singers in High Wycombe and once engineered an invitation for us to join them in a tour of N Italy. We were privileged to sing High Mass in St Mark’s Venice on the occasion and the memory of that day will always live with us.
The funeral service was beautiful – very clear, very simple, and it was great to hear Chewton Mendip filled with the sound of those rousing hymns from a congregation which knew how to sing!
Christopher Booker (parishioner of Litton where Gerald played)
Last weekend we were with the Grove Singers, which is a group formed out of the remnants of London Chorale plus some new people. A number of us there who had sung with Gerald in London Chorale before he went to Wells, and so there was much talk about him. I organised a card from all of us, though sadly it won’t have reached him in time.
We have very fond memories of our times spent in Gerald’s company. He was a lovely gentle man and had a great sense of humour. I am writing to tell you also that last week we sent a card to Gerald and enclosed a photo of him that I took in Gibralter on 1998 The picture is of Gerald dressed as an Arab in a towelling dressing gown etc. and he looked really good and very funny.
Ellen and Robin Horton
It was a privilege to have known Gerald and his fantastically dry sense of humour, not to mention his musical talent and frighteningly good general knowledge.
It was interesting to read about you and Gerald founding the choir. A few years ago we very much enjoyed Gerald’s visit to Wellington. He persuaded me to go and watch the cricket Test between NZ and England. I enjoyed every minute.
I too send my sympathies to Gerald’s family and friends. The service sounds comforting and entirely appropriate. I hope those present found it so.
There once was a tenor named Gerald:
He hymned, he psalmed, he carolled.
He called us together:
"Sing Hell for leather,
St Hugh Singers will never be equalled!"
Sent to Gerald 23 July 2008
He was a delightful man and we always enjoyed meeting him and chatting. He was a mine of information and he sang so beautifully too.
Jenny and Geoff Mason
Woman: Our Dennis is off school with diarrhoea, which is all down our street.
Jenny and I are both very sad to hear of Gerald’s death. He was an inspiration to us and, I expect, to many other people both in and outside the St Hugh Singers.
We knew Gerald very well through our membership of the London Chorale for many years. We shared many happy hours with Gerald in rehearsal, concerts and on tours overseas. We were able to meet up with Gerald here in Sydney, Australia on a couple of occasions. We mourn the loss of someone who contributed a rich individuality to our lives.
Jo and John Fauvet
Just got the sad news about Gerald, we spent last Christmas together.
Jorge Daniel Valencia
I first knew him years ago when he and I shared the same singing teacher (Richard Austen) and for a time we used Gerald’s studio in London for lessons. I met him again when I joined the ECS. He was always great fun – and a great singer! He will be missed by many.
I met Gerald in London, in a choir we both sang in, probably about twenty years ago. I was just starting out as a translator, working from Dutch into English.
Gerald was already a seasoned translator at that time, and he invited me to his office, where he gave me a great deal of invaluable advice. I also caught a glimpse of him at work and I remember being astounded at the speed with which he could produce a text: the translation would fly onto the page as if by magic. He immediately – and with characteristic generosity – offered me some work: he was in the middle of translating a book on Indonesian cookery and was happy to share the job (years later he said that it had been one of the few jobs that had caused him nightmares, as he worried that he might have got the quantities of chilli powder wrong...).
Over the years we became friends and colleagues; we worked for some of the same clients and would occasionally share translation assignments. When Gerald moved to Wells, we stayed in contact and continued to collaborate from time to time. Gerald was the best translator I ever met, and I picked his brain far more often than he picked mine. He was always cheerful and chatty on the phone, always made time for my queries and was simply a mine of information on the most unlikely topics.
After I moved to Holland, Gerald visited me on several occasions. The last time I saw him he complained of being very tired. But I never thought I wouldn’t see him again.
I will miss his friendship, his good humour and his expertise.
He will be sorely missed, the end of an era in some ways. He was a gentle, humorous, talented, humble man and I am pleased to have known him.
Judy Craig Peck
Although I didn’t know him so well as many others in the St Hugh Singers, I enjoyed very much the weekends that I attended, and they were greatly enriched by having Gerald present – for his musical talents, his lovely personality, and Christian faith, which shone through.
I am very sorry about Gerald’s illness and death. What a loss.
I spent a couple of hours with Gerald just before leaving for the USA on business early in August, and we laughed and chatted together about our genealogy adventures in past years. With best wishes and happy memories of a fine gentleman
Martin Ladd (cousin)
Although I am a fairly new choir member, I am extremely grateful to the St Hugh Singers, particularly the founder members, for enabling me to partake in the spiritually uplifting experience of sharing religious music in such historic and beautiful settings.
Gerald was a sort of cousin of mine. It is all the saddest thing since I only really discovered him properly last year at the Cousins’ Reunion at Wells. He so generously let me stay at Vicars’ Close and there was so much I wanted ask him about musically. I too have an obsession with church/choral music and more particularly
renaissance consort stuff – of which in the ‘Colonies’ of course we know nothing!
Gerald seems to have had a very singular attitude to life, I guess some might say eccentric, but endearingly so.
When we were boys, I became aware of his tenacity and attention to detail when I asked him why he was reading a dictionary (He had got to the letter P). ‘I’m trying to increase my vocabulary’, he explained. I expect he did exactly that.
... a delight to have known Gerald – such a kind and funny man, apart fom his obvious attribtutes as very useful tenor. People like him really enrich other people’s lives.
Gerald kept his humour to the end and is probably cracking jokes from his book to St Peter who is no doubt laughing as we all did.
Geoff and Sally Walker
on a plate of bacon and eggs to lust after it hath committed breakfast with it
already in his heart.
I did visit Gerald a couple of times after he’d returned home the week before. I was singing in Wells for the week and he gave me such a warm welcome. He was so interested in what we were singing and when I told him about the huge visiting American choir who took over on our day off, he had some very witty (and dare I say accurate) observations to make!
I’m really sorry to hear about Gerald. He was a lovely man.
Although Helen & I have been very peripheral to St Hugh over recent years, our memories of Gerald have all been happy ones. That must say something about a person.
Stephen & Helen Earwicker
While I’ve not seen Gerald since leaving England in 2001, he is still very much a close, dear friend and now especially close in our hearts with your sad news.
While living next door to Gerald in Vicars’ Close, he and I spent many evening hours over a game of scrabble or, occasionally, chess. At this time, I had suffered from a small stroke. I credit much of my recovery to Gerald’s sharp gamesmanship! While I was no match for him in chess, we did share victories in Scrabble.
The photo below was taken at our house in late 2000, shortly before Donna and I left the Close. We had invited choir members and their significant others over to our place for a massive Scrabble game. This was taken toward the end of the game – you can tell by the look on Gerald’s face that Gerald and his partner were comfortably in the lead.
Sundays were always a contest to see who could solve the Daily Telegraph puzzle before the other could, such was my time spent during the sermons!
We were close confidants and were able to share our frustrations living on the Close. Of all the people I came to know while living in England, it was Gerald to whom I was most drawn. He was trustworthy to the core and had a purity of heart that made me feel very much at ease whenever I was present with him.
Christian Van Dyck
Although I did not know Gerald well, having come to the St Hugh Singers fairly recently, I always enjoyed conversations with him and am glad to have known him.
While I hardly knew Gerald, having only recently sung with the St Hugh Singers, I could tell the affection in which he was held, and I benefitted (and hope to continue to benefit) from the fact that the two of you founded St Hugh.
Gerald is very much missed by his friends at The Ploughboy Inn, Green Ore, in Somerset. He was a founder member of the Green Ore Independent Traders Society, known to the cognoscenti as the GITS, and as such contributed to many late hours in the Ploughboy, setting the world and, in particular, the Government, to rights with much humour and good banter. We shared his interest in Telegraph howlers and indeed those of other organs of the press. His keen appreciation of his local hostelry and its fine beers was exemplary, particularly when he was able to reach the top of Mendip with a heavy fall of snow being deposited, whilst lesser mortals found it impossible to leave their homes in the rain on the Levels below. On one occasion he honoured us with some splendid singing in the bar, which all appreciated.
He is missed and not forgotten.
He drank so prodigiously that not only were his sorrows drowned; his joys didn’t stand an earthly either.
During the almost 30 years I knew Gerald he never changed. Nothing seemed to phase him and he never lost his sense of humour even during his final illness. A talented musician he will be greatly missed in musical circles and especially by the St Hugh Singers.
Always ready to do a good turn for anyone, Gerald was one of those people of whom it could be said the world was a better place for the contribution he made to it.
I am so sorry to hear of Gerald’s passing away. We knew each other well during our London years. We collaborated on Dutch translations and became good friends. Gerald used to come to my house in Leytonstone for games of chess and we often met for lunch near his printing business in Homer Row. Occasionally I attended one of Gerald’s choral performances and much admired his marvellous voice.
He was a lovely man and I strongly recall his dimpled smile. Many a time have I thought back to those days of quiet friendship and I will continue to do so.
Those of you who visited Gerald in his earlier first-floor flat in Vicars’ Close may remember the penguin beaming benevolently from his sitting room-window onto those passing in the street below. (I have often wondered what overseas tourists made of this.) Over the years Penguin acquired a friend, and I am happy to report that, before he died, Gerald entrusted them to the care of my daughter Bethan. Here they are, basking in the non-arctic sunshine by my garden pond.
My girls remember him as the ‘penguin man’.
Two more pictures of Gerald and friends:
Gerald and Ceridwen
Gerald and Bethan, now guardian of the penguins
Debbie and I have known Gerald since he arrived as a Lay Clerk in Wells in the mid 80s (where Chris was a virger), and were among those privileged to help him celebrate his birthday in his early days at Wells, when we clubbed together to sponsor a penguin for him at the Cotswold Wildlife Park!
He sang in the cathedral choir for our wedding in the cathedral in February 1989, and we remember singing Compline in the Close Chapel on Friday evenings with him and his then colleagues, before adjourning to The Fountain for some sustenance! Gerald was a unique person and one of the nicest we have known. We have always had a soft spot for him.
We are saddened to think that Gerald will no longer be a part of our choral activities and choir tours. He was a dear friend and musical colleague for almost 35 years, from the time he first joined the London Chorale in the 1970s when I was Musical Director.
On our return from living and working in Australia, and establishing the English Concert Singers, Gerald would often help out by performing as a soloist or as a valued member of the tenor section of the ECS. He also assisted as a singer in a number of choral workshops and summer schools of the British Choral Institute.
He was a true friend, and nothing appeared to be too much trouble if he agreed to do something for you. I remember particularly when he had a printing business in London and he agreed to compile and print an extensive Souvenir Programme of a Festival of Scandinavian Music I was directing at that time. I was so impressed with the meticulous care he took to ensure that the spelling and correct accents were given to the many unusual names of the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish composers and the titles of their works represented in the Festival.
We not only valued his fine musical contribution to our choral activities but also appreciated his clever and dry sense of humour. He clearly enjoyed the social side of choir tours and events, and we remember with joy his witty participation in numerous choir cabarets; in particular, his performance at Chris’ 60th birthday dinner at LSO St Luke’s in London was a highlight.
Like his friends and musical colleagues, we will greatly miss Gerald’s contribution to our lives and our music making, but so many happy memories will linger on!
Roy and Chris Wales
I’ll always remember him as a very professional translator and nice person to co-operate with.
He was a lovely gentle and kind man, and I endorse all the tributes which have been made to him.
I have such happy and very proud memories of belonging to St Hugh. It has been a privilege to have been associated with the chor, and the music and friendship have been a huge influence on my life.
Let me relate an image I have of Gerald. His sad and early death has bought this to the front of my mind.
One Saturday evening on a St Hugh Weekend, Gerald sang to us at least some of RVW’s setting of the Songs Of Travel. I am particularly fond of them and find the words of Robert Louis Stevenson so evocative. I will treasure that image as I recall the words and remember Gerald, who I found to be a fun, kind, articulate and generous person – a description which falls well short of the real man.
BRIGHT is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.
Still they are carolled and said –
On wings they are carried –
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.
Low as the singer lies
In the field of heather,
Songs of his fashion bring
The swains together.
And when the west is red
With the sunset embers,
The lover lingers and sings
And the maid remembers.
We shall miss him.
The Cathedral Church of St Andrew in Wells
Service of Thanksgiving
for the life of
Gerald David Burton
Monday 10 November 2008
Angel-voices ever singing
round thy throne of light,
angel-harps for ever ringing,
rest not day nor night;
thousands only live to bless thee
and confess thee
Lord of might.
Thou who art beyond the farthest
mortal eye can scan,
can it be that thou regardest
songs of sinful man?
can we know that thou art near us,
and wilt hear us?
yea, we can.
For we know that thou rejoicest
o’er each work of thine;
thou didst ears and hands and voices
for thy praise design;
craftsman’s art and music’s measure
for thy pleasure
In thy house, great God, we offer
of thine own to thee;
and for thine acceptance proffer
hearts and minds and hands and voices
in our choicest
Honour, glory, might and merit
thine shall ever be,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
of the best which thou hast given
earth and heaven
We meet in the name of Jesus Christ, who died and was raised to the glory of God the Father.
Grace and mercy be with you.
All And also with you.
Father in heaven, we praise your name
for all who have finished this life loving and trusting you,
for the example of their lives,
the life and grace you gave them,
and the peace in which they rest.
We praise you today for your servant Gerald and for all that you did through him.
Meet us in our sadness and fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving,
for the sake of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Great Lord of Lords, supreme immortal King,
O give us grace to sing
Thy praise, which makes earth, air, and heaven to ring.
O Word of God, from ages unbegun,
The Father’s only Son,
With Him in power, in substance, Thou art one.
O Holy Ghost, Whose care doth all embrace,
Thy watch is o’er our race,
Thou Source of Life, Thou Spring of peace and grace.
One living Trinity, One unseen Light,
All, all is Thine, Thy light
Beholds alike the bounds of depth and height. Amen.
Text: H.R. Bramley 1833–1917
Music: Charles Wood 1866–1926
New Testament Reading
Colossians 3: 12–17
Dr Anthony Crossland
former Cathedral Organist & Master of the Choristers
|Now thank we all our God,|
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things hath done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mother’s arms
hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessèd peace to cheer us;
and keep us in his grace,|
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven,
the One eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore. Amen.
Dr Robin Rees
THE Line to heaven by Christ was made,|
With heavenly truth the Rails are laid;
From Earth to Heaven the Line extends
To Life Eternal where it ends.
So begins The Spiritual Railway, an epitaph in the south porch of Ely Cathedral. Yes, life is sometimes likened to a journey, but let me tell you instead of some events that took place around train journeys that Gerald and I made together in the course of our 40-year friendship.
We first met on Ealing Broadway station one autumn morning in 1968. The fact that we spoke to each other at all is highly unusual for commuters, but, even more remarkably, we discovered we were both students at London University’s Bedford College. During that first journey, through Paddington and on to Baker Street, it became clear that there was another link between us, one that was to prove decisive: we shared a deep interest in church music.
Having attended a summer course run by the Royal School of Church Music at
Lincoln Cathedral, I thought that this was something that Gerald might well enjoy, so in 1975 he came too. During the week’s course we had the privilege of singing the services in the cathedral. The fact that the sopranos and altos were all teenage girls was, I have to say, not entirely a disincentive either. Gerald and I attended the Lincoln course for about ten years, and each year we would meet at King’s Cross station before taking wine with our three-course lunch on the journey north. One year, on our return to King’s Cross, Gerald, I and a large number of the girls sang on the platform – symbolically and very loudly – the Dismissal from the Rose Responses.
In 1979, Gerald and I founded a group which meets for one or two weekends a year to deputise for cathedral choirs. Since most of its founding members had attended the Lincoln course, we called the group The St Hugh Singers in honour of St Hugh of Lincoln. Over the years, the group has sung in 34 cathedrals, and celebrates its 30th anniversary at York next year.
A month or so before each weekend we would travel, usually by train, to visit a member of the cathedral clergy, and discuss every conceivable detail of each service, so as to avoid our being caught out by some subtle local variation during the actual service. Each cathedral assumed it was self-evident that there was only one valid interpretation of the rubric – theirs. This of course was rarely the case, and our questioning sometimes had to verge on interrogation in order to elicit the answers we were seeking. Indeed on at least three occasions we arrived for our weekend at the cathedral to find that the member of clergy whom we had met only two months earlier had in the meantime moved on to another appointment. Was it something we said?...
One such exploratory trip was to Ely, where we first saw the epitaph I mentioned earlier. It was on an incredibly cold January day in 1985, and it seemed even colder inside the cathedral than outside. To pass the time on the journey back to Liverpool Street – and to take our minds off the cold – we made our own selections for the radio programme Desert Island Discs. Unfortunately our choice of records has been lost in the mists of time. [To top of next column]
However, I do recall that when it came to our choice of book, we both felt we could do a lot worse than the English Hymnal – though it had to be the 1933 edition! – or the Savoy Operas of W. S. Gilbert, as so many of life’s issues are addressed within those volumes.|
One May weekend in 1982 Gerald and I had been invited to stay with friends in Taunton. When we met on the Friday morning at Paddington, he told me that he had just heard that his mother had been found dead at her home. For anyone this would be a time of great sadness, but I sensed that this was in some way overwhelmingly so for Gerald.
In the spring of 1987 I saw advertised in Church Times a vacancy for a Vicar Choral here at Wells, and suggested that Gerald apply. It is probably fair to say that in more senses of the word than one his application was successful. I always enjoyed my visits to him at Wells in general and at Vicars’ Close in particular – so much more appropriate for someone like him than his former flat in central London.
In recent years we enjoyed travelling on two nearby preserved railways. One was the
East Somerset: I remember the glee in Gerald’s voice when telling me that, until the line’s closure in the 1960s, it used to run through Wells and down to Witham where, 800 years earlier, St Hugh (to whom our singing group is dedicated) had been Prior. The other was the
West Somerset Railway, to the seaside at Minehead, rekindling memories of the summer holidays of our childhood.
In describing these train journeys that Gerald and I made, I have said nothing about his personality: his gentle modesty and quiet acts of kindness. For both my weddings I asked him to be best man, and I was not disappointed – especially when it came to his speech. When I married Helen four years ago, who but Gerald, with a totally dead-pan expression on his face, would dare to say:
This is the right age for Robin to marry, whilst he has the wisdom of youth and the energy of old age.
Having mentioned the Savoy Operas and English Hymnal, let me close by quoting from them. On at least one occasion Gerald played the part of Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard. In the light of Gerald’s early death, Fairfax’s words take on a new poignancy:
Is life a boon?
If so, it must befall,
That Death, whene’er he call,
Must call too soon.
Yet I am reminded that, whenever things got difficult, Gerald would say:
Plough on regardless.
If we take that as an encouragement to us as well as to himself, I think Gerald would approve of a similar sentiment expressed by Percy Dearmer in the final verse of his hymn Jesus, good above all other:
Lord, in all our doings guide us;
Pride and hate shall ne’er divide us;
We’ll go on with thee beside us,
And with joy we’ll persevere!
O praise ye the Lord! Praise him in the height;|
rejoice in his word, ye angels of light;
ye heavens adore him by whom ye were made,
and worship before him, in brightness arrayed.
O praise ye the Lord! Praise him upon earth,
in tuneful accord, ye sons of new birth;
praise him who hath brought you his grace from above,
praise him who hath taught you to sing of his love.
|O praise ye the Lord, all things that give sound,|
each jubilant chord re-echo around;
loud organs, his glory forth tell in deep tone,
and, sweet harp, the story of what he hath done.
O praise ye the Lord! Thanksgiving and song
to him be outpoured all ages along:
for love in creation, for heaven restored,
for grace of salvation, O praise ye the Lord. Amen.
Mrs Angela Harris
GERALD, MY BROTHER
Gerald was born in Hull to find that he had an older brother, Roger and a much older half-brother, Geoffrey. His annoying sister would come along later. He attended a church school and passed his scholarship to Hymers College at age 11. He studied science in the V1th Form but did not want to continue with science even in “the new scientific age”. He went to work in the printing trade. Our parents ran a shop and Gerald had a heavy old printing press there with which he printed small items.
After a brief stay in London he returned to Hull to complete more “A” levels including languages as he decided to go to university after all. He entered Bedford College, London University to study Dutch Language and Literature. This was followed by 2 years at the London Business School, Regents Park, where he gained an MSc in Economics (Business Studies), nowadays an MBA.
After the Business School he worked as a corporate banker at National and Grindlays Bank in Fenchurch Street. He decided that wasn’t for him and he started his own printing business. In 1974 he bought a small flat in one of the elegant white terraces in London W2. He had many visitors who used to “do London” from there. He developed a sideline in translating from Dutch to English. This grew and eventually he gave up the printing to concentrate on his new career of translating – at first by fax and then by email.
Gerald was involved with music for all of his life, learning to play the piano as a young boy and singing in the school and church choirs. His first piano teacher was Miss Footey about whom he used to giggle and say that she put flour on her face instead of face powder. He learned the ’cello from a kindly man called John Keenan and befriended him and his wife. His music teacher at Hymers College was Graham Watson and Gerald visited him over the years. Graham Watson and Ron Styles also taught him the organ. Our church choirmaster, with the illustrious name of Albert Hall, also taught Gerald piano and organ.
Starting as a choirboy at St. Mary’s Lowgate in Hull Gerald sang in choirs ever since. He played the organ at St Saviour’s in Hull where the vicar happened to be Dutch. (Latterly of course he played the organ at churches near Wells.) On moving south he was recruited to play the organ at Ealing Green Church and later at other churches in central London.
He joined the London Chorale and thus began his many foreign trips with choirs. Music is a great social engine and he took advantage of this, singing in many venues and countries. Gerald sang with many choirs and later operatic groups and sang solo parts in choral works. His commitment to the choir in this Cathedral lasted for 10 years, the last few of those years as Vicar Principal, a post he held with skill and diplomacy, I gather.
He had his parallel careers of translating and music. He would try to reduce his translation work but people always came back to him as he was reliable and accurate. He never knew what would come his way – legal and technical material, and he had to learn about many subjects. But that was partly why he liked it. He always had a thirst for knowledge and was an avid reader. He wrote a guide to translating Dutch which is to be published soon and he has collaborated with his Dutch friend Aart in creating a Legal Lexicon – many hours of work and many phone calls.
Gerald delighted in languages – English, Dutch and more. Last February he was pleased to have a witty little letter on comparatives published in the Telegraph. He wrote a pamphlet called “Cloth Ears: the destruction of English” subtitled “Don’t mess with my language.” This makes interesting reading, bemoaning the fact that we don’t use English properly, including me! His mother used to tell the story that when he was 6 years old a fellow train passenger tried and failed to catch him out with difficult spellings and she had been unaware of the extent of his skill.
Family and friends were important to him. He played the organ at family weddings and sang at our wedding. He related well to the young and the not so young and made friends of all ages.
[To top of next column]
I learned recently that he took part in soirées for special birthdays, making music as part of these evenings.
Last year the second of our cousins’ reunions took place, this time organised by Gerald here in Wells. Who could forget his witty and superbly timed speech?
He was a dutiful and kind godfather to Stacey – he related well to children, playing imaginative games with them when their parents had lost interest and I have learned that he would take children on the big fairground rides when their parents opted out.
Gerald was pleased to move to Wells and enjoyed his life here. When first shown the Cathedral and Vicars’ Close he said to himself, “I want this job” – and he got it.
As well as travelling with choirs he had holidays with family and friends – to Japan twice with his brother and sister-in-law, to Australia and New Zealand with me and to other places here and abroad. He visited 21 countries at least.
Genealogy was a big interest and he researched our 4 family trees. His interest started with a small collection of family silver and as a teenager he annotated the church registers at St Mary’s Church in Hull. His searches took him to several counties and he discovered sites such as a fortified manor house, connections to Charlotte Bronte and coastguards in Devon. He met distant relatives, historians and authors sometimes by walking into pubs and asking! That was of course the only reason he went into pubs! He asked me to publish the family trees and that is a promise that I will fulfil.
Gerald’s wit is remembered by many – his asides in choir practice, his superb best man’s speech for Robin and Helen, his quips on postcards and “Gerald jokes” some of which are on the website.
Gerald wrote some memoirs and although unfinished I did find the beginnings of “100 oddities of Gerald’s life”. Here are three of them:
I can add that as a boy he took a garden spade to dig on the beach on our seaside holidays. He never did anything by halves.
- I once saw a cricketer who played in the same side as W.G. Grace.
I can type faster than anyone I know. [True].
- I am excellent at reading upside down. [The text!]
Finally, to some comments that people have written about Gerald:
- [From a cousin],“I will remember Gerald for his dry wit and his teenage attempt to read a dictionary to improve his vocabulary!”
- “Dependable, always good company.”
“He took the high spirits of the choral scholars in his stride and we were very fond of him”.
- [From New Zealand] “The good times we had in his company”.
“We remember a recital when he sang Songs of Travel by Vaughan Williams. It was wonderful.”
“ A kind and good person with a propensity for giggling”.
“I much admired his marvellous voice”.
- “Gerald’s sharp and creative mind”.
“ A real Englishman but affected by the Dutch language and style of life”.
“Direct about his wishes but in a polite way”.
“Sense of humour, personal warmth and friendship”.
- “He always seemed content with his life.”
- “His self-effacing manner, team spirit and droll sense of humour.”
- “Such a full life.” From New Zealand “Only Gerald could relate a joke so well, with his dry humour, clever wit and excellent brain”.
“A very kind and special person”.
[From our cousin in Canada] “Academic, musician, traveller, translator, fun-loving wit.”
[And from America]
“He was trustworthy to the core and had a purity of heart that made me feel very much at ease”.
This weekend candles have been lit in memory of Gerald in Notre Dame Cathedral, and in Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Holland, Australia, Canada and the Czech Republic.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth:
for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away;
and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,
coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying,
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,
and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people,
and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away.
Text: Revelation 21
Music: Edgar Bainton 1880–1956
Merciful Father and Lord of all life,
we praise you that we are made in your image
and reflect your truth and light.
We thank you for the life of your son Gerald,
for the love he received from you
and showed among us.
We thank you for his delight in music,
for his friendship, his love and for all that he will always mean to us.
Above all, we rejoice at your gracious promise
to all your servants, living and departed,
that we shall rise again at the coming of Christ.
And we ask that in due time
we may share with our brother that clearer vision,
when we shall see your face in the same Christ our Lord.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
whose birth was heralded by angels’ song
and whose death for sinners is extolled
by the music of heaven:
grant that those who use voices and instruments
which show forth your glory
may also display in their lives that harmony
which echoes your eternal praise;
for your own name’s sake.
Almighty God, thank you for this ancient place of prayer:
for the faith that has blossomed here,
and for the worship in all seasons offered here;
for the lives that have been touched in this place
and the commitment stirred into life here.
As we build on the faith of those who have gone before us, and wonder about those who will come after us, bless all who come here,
may your angels speak to us with the music of your love;
for you are God of renewal and steadfastness, now and for ever.
O Lord God,
when thou givest to thy servants
to endeavour any great matter
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of the same
until it be thoroughly finished,
which yieldeth the true glory;
through him who for the finishing of thy work
laid down his life for us,
our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
All Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
in your great love
you crafted us by your hand
and breathed life into us by your Spirit.
Although we became a rebellious people,
you did not abandon us to our sin.
In your tender mercy
you sent your Son
to restore in us your image.
In obedience to your will
he gave up his life for us,
bearing in his body our sins on the cross.
By your mighty power
you raised him from the grave
and exalted him to the throne of glory.
Rejoicing in his victory
and trusting in your promise
to make alive all who turn to Christ,
we commend Gerald to your mercy,
and we join with all your faithful people
and the whole company of heaven
in the one unending song of praise:
glory and wisdom and honour
be to our God for ever and ever.
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word;
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples,
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen
Text: Luke 2: 29–32
Music: Collegium Regale, Herbert Howells 1892–1983
Nun danket alle Gott
Sigfrid Karg-Elert 1877–1933
During the voluntary, family and friends will process to the
Camery Garden for the Interment of Ashes.
There will be a retiring collection for the Laura Crane Trust.
From the family album
Pictures provided by Gerald's sister, Angela
The Last Word
Though enormously saddened by his death, we can at least rejoice in having known Gerald and in the fact that he is no longer suffering. Most important of all, however, is to remember the ultimate message of our Christian music-making – that death is not the end.
Let us give the last word to Gerald, whose dry sense of humour we so enjoyed. The following is the final recorded example of it, spoken less than 48 hours before he died. One of his visitors casually mentioned that on a journey back to Wells earlier that day she had driven past Stonehenge. Gerald instantly replied:
Yes, that’s probably the best thing to do with it.
Photo by Fiona Care, October 2007