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Presentation of Honorary Diplomas and Awards 2003


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This is the text read by the Director General, Professor John Harper, at the presentation of honorary awards at the RSCM Celebration Day in Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 7 June 2003.

The annual Celebration Day of the Royal School of Church Music is an opportunity to give thanks for the church’s mission and ministry through music.
It is a privilege for the RSCM to be here in Coventry, to affirm the work of this cathedral, and especially the work of the cathedral’s choirs and musicians.
It is also a privilege for the mission and ministry of the Royal School of Church Music to be affirmed by the cathedral foundation by allowing us to come here to Coventry. May I thank all who have enabled us to be here today, especially the Precentor and the Director of Music, and all who have come to join with us in this thanksgiving from all over England, from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa, and New Zealand.

This building, now just over 40 years’ old, is a sign of the vigour and determination of a church and community to rebuild and grow after the trauma of devastation. I am probably not the only one here who visited this place in the 1950s both as a bomb site and as a building site. Out of that destruction, Coventry has been enriched by the international dimensions of its mission in reconciliation and outreach in the wider church and the world.

Music can play its part in healing, reconciliation and spiritual growth in the church and the world, as I witnessed first hand on my first visit to the RSCM in South Africa in January this year. The work of the RSCM in South Africa is one part of the extraordinary range of work undertaken by this organisation in over 40 countries worldwide – much of it done quietly but effectively, without fuss or publicity, but with huge commitment, mostly by those who are unpaid.

Today’s Celebration Day and tomorrow’s televised Songs of Praise programme on BBC 1 mark the end of our 75th anniversary events – an anniversary which has been marked by major national services in the cathedrals of Durham, Westminster, St Asaph, Exeter and now Coventry, as well as by special services in many churches and cathedrals, both in Britain and throughout the world.

On this eve of Pentecost we give great thanks for the gifts of the Spirit that have guided and continue to inspire the work of the RSCM and of musicians throughout the Christian Church. This occasion enables the RSCM to acknowledge formally the great range of contributions made by people whose vision, energy, creativity, scholarship and sheer hard work take forward the music and liturgy of the church. Both the internationalism and the interdenominational intent of the RSCM are expressed in these awards. The RSCM can never honour everyone who is deserving of recognition. But the 13 people to whom honorary awards are made this year include residents of 8 countries on 4 continents, belonging to 5 constituent Churches of the Anglican Communion and 4 other Christian denominations. Not all our honorands can be here today. Among them the Estonian-born composer, Arvo Pärt, and the Australian hymnologist, Dr Harold D'Arcy Wood. But those present with us today come from 3 Churches in the Anglican Communion, 2 other Christian denominations, 5 countries and 3 continents, and are therefore acceptably representative of the ministry and mission of music worldwide.

We begin with two appointments to the Fellowship of the RSCM.

Dr John Bertalot has made a significant and distinctive contribution to church music in Britain and America. After a period at St Matthew’s Northampton, he shaped the music of Blackburn Cathedral in the 1960s and 1970s, and of Trinity Church, Princeton, in the 1980s and 1990s. Both churches have honoured him with emeritus appointments. But more widely he has inspired and instructed. He is particularly renowned for his training of children. Watching him in action is both inspiring and enormously entertaining. He is gently firm, wittily direct, totally engaging, and yet absolutely focused on his objectives. His books on Sight Reading and Choir Training skills are both winners. They are full of practical sense, and enable even the most modest to progress with confidence. His energy, vivacity, and sheer love of the church and its music are a great example. He’s also been a splendid ambassador for the RSCM. Council is delighted to appoint John Bertalot as a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music.

Dr Edward Higginbottom has been director of music at New College, Oxford, for over a quarter of a century. He was brought up in this diocese of Coventry, helping with the music at All Saints’ Leamington and St Mary’s Warwick. A first-class musician, a respected scholar and teacher, and an inspiring director, he has established New College as one of the pre-eminent international choirs. He continues to explore unfamiliar and challenging repertories, as well as reaching out to a wider audience. His approach to choir training is distinctive, encouraging each singer to be individual within the whole. That, and his strong sense of style and projection of music, have contributed much to the success of the choir. He has also been influential in advancing the place of practical musical study in the University of Oxford, and in encouraging the re-invigoration of choral singing in France. In spare moments he continues to keep a watchful eye as Chairman of the largest of the RSCM’s Area domains, Thames and Chilterns. It is with the greatest pleasure that Council appoints Edward Higginbottom to be a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music.

We now move on to awards of Associate.

All the work of the RSCM depends heavily on voluntary commitment. But that is particularly the case for our international work. Almost 2000 of our 9000 members and affiliates live outside Britain and Ireland. Two of our honorands have crossed the world specially to be with us today. Miss Anita Banbury and Colonel Kevin Williams are two of those many professional musicians who are willing to set time aside to help make church music better at grass roots level.

I watched Anita Banbury at work at the summer school in New Zealand in 2001. She was willingly undertaking a backroom job – assisting the course director with sectional practices and workshops: key work in raising standards and awareness that she has done so widely in Auckland and throughout the RSCM in New Zealand. She is an excellent choir trainer and choral conductor, and she also has that special quality of engaging effectively with people of very different abilities and ages with tact and encouragement, getting much more than their best out of them. Her nomination for an award comes from the RSCM Auckland Branch, and is strongly supported by the RSCM New Zealand National President.

Colonel Kevin Williams’s day job is Director of Ceremonial and Military Music in the South African Army. He combines this with directing music at a Methodist Church in the suburbs of Johannesburg, and travelling long distances around the northern states of South Africa, supporting local RSCM affiliated churches, helping them to move forward to make best use of music in their worship. He is part of a group taking forward the establishment of a national body for the RSCM in South Africa. Dr Williams’s nomination comes from the RSCM Northern Branch Committee in South Africa and from his own church.

Council is very pleased to commend the work of RSCM International, and to appoint Anita Banbury and Kevin Williams to be Associates of the Royal School of Church Music.

Martin van Bleek is a conservation architect in Holland. He is also a passionate amateur church musician. Not only does he direct the music of the English Church in Haarlem, the Anglican Singers in Amsterdam, and chair the RSCM’s North West Europe committee, but he also directs the European Cathedral Singers who sing regularly both in Europe and in Britain. Our work in continental Europe is burgeoning, especially within the Anglican Diocese of Europe, and we acknowledge the important contribution of our volunteers in North-West Europe, co-ordinated by Martin van Bleek.

John Wardle has been closely associated with the RSCM for over ten years now, first as commissioner, then as regional director, and now as co-ordinator of the extensive programme of RSCM Awards for Singers and Chairman of Sussex Area. Throughout that time John has supported voluntary committees and individual churches, directed courses and events, and especially overseen the RSCM’s Southern Cathedral Singers. His genial manner, enthusiasm and commitment to the RSCM, even through the toughest of times, are much respected throughout the organisation, and he is held in high regard with great affection.

For their contributions to the work of the RSCM, Council is delighted to appoint Martin van Bleek and John Wardle to be Associates of the Royal School of Church Music.

This is the first time that the RSCM has made an honorary award to a member of The Salvation Army. The impact of the Salvation Army in Christian mission and in social care is well recognised. We need also to remember how much they have contributed to musical education, engaging young people in instrumental playing long before it became fashionable in schools or in music for worship. There’s scarcely a big Songs of Praise without brass accompaniment now: the Salvation Army were there decades before. A very senior musician in the Salvation Army, a hugely respected brass-band conductor, arranger and composer, Ray Steadman-Allen was honoured on his recent 80th birthday by the release of a CD of his music recorded by the Army’s International Staff Band, and the International Staff Songsters. The RSCM joins with them in honouring him and the work of Christian mission through music undertaken by the Salvation Army.

Martin White is another senior musician. He has recently retired after 34 years as organist and master of the choristers at the Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St Patrick in Armagh – serving under four archbishops and three deans, and of course working through all the years of the troubles. The challenge of sustaining a choral tradition with a largely voluntary cathedral choir is great, all the more so during the last quarter of the 20th century in a small city in Northern Ireland. Martin White has also contributed much to the training of young organists, and to the wider world of music education in Southern Ulster. The RSCM marks this achievement.

Council is therefore very pleased to appoint Lt Col Ray Steadman-Allen and Martin White to be Associates of the Royal School of Church Music.

Both John Ewington and Peter Halliday are active as practising parish church musicians. But the RSCM today marks their administrative contribution to church music.

John Ewington has nurtured the Guild of Church Musicians for 26 years as its General Secretary. Within an entirely voluntary membership organisation, he has gathered together a significant number of senior musicians and senior clergy to shape its work, and to oversee its principal activity – examinations in church music, and especially the Archbishops’ Award in Church Music and the Archbishops’ Certificate in Church Music, for which the Guild has been responsible since 1961. John Ewington’s commitment to the work of the Guild has been huge, and without that dedication it would not be flourishing as it is today, with a membership of over 600 in Britain and abroad, and with significant work in New South Wales. The RSCM wishes to mark John Ewington’s important achievement.

The RSCM has for many years assisted with the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance held in the Royal Albert Hall in November each year. This occasion has taken on new significance since most of us under 60 have little first-hand experience of the devastation of war. It has also become a more complex event with far greater security restrictions. The co-ordination and supervision of the RSCM singers involved in the Remembrance Festival in recent years has been in the hands of Peter Halliday. He has also overseen the music of the religious service in the last two years. This year the RSCM’s Millennium Youth Choir will lead that music, though Peter Halliday will again help with supervision. The RSCM wishes to recognise his contribution to this major national event.

Council is very pleased to appoint John Ewington and Peter Halliday to be Honorary Members of the Royal School of Church Music.

At other ceremonies this year, Andrew Millington of Exeter Cathedral and Robert Kidd, formerly of St Mary’s Cathedral and St John’s Church Edinburgh, were appointed Associates of the RSCM; and the liturgist, Dean Michael Perham, will receive his Fellowship diploma at the end of this month when I preach in Derby Cathedral.

Certificates of Special Service
The RSCM Council has also awarded Certificates of Special Service to 10 RSCM voluntary officers and parish musicians. These awards will be made at RSCM Area festivals.

For now we give thanks for all who work in the Church, and especially in furthering its worship and music; and we pray that all of us may be filled with God’s Spirit as we endeavour to fulfil that ministry, as we sing the hymn, Come down, O Love Divine.

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