My regular weekend conveyance, the Rail Replacement Bus, transported me slowly across southern England to Salisbury – but worth it of course, to arrive in the exquisite Cathedral Close and walk past its amazing parade of luxury ecclesiatical mansions.
My visit was to the annual Celebration Day of the Royal School of Church Music. It was high time I went, as I’ve often thought I should know more about this body which is ‘an educational charity committed to promoting the study, practice and improvement of music in Christian worship’. Whether we’re Christians or not, we have to thank the nation’s church choirs, not only for keeping choral singing alive, but for imparting musical education to many young people who may not otherwise be receiving it at school any more. Not surprisingly I found RSCM to be a lively, expert organisation headed by Hugh Morris, a most dynamic church music professional.
The Day celebrated some other remarkable individuals, all with long service to their parishes and choirs. I was thrilled to have a personal connection with possibly the most record-breaking award recipient of all, Douglas Milsom, who has completed seventy years, yes really, as a treble and then tenor in the choir of St Mary’s Church, Harrow-on the-Hill. Clair Milsom (also present) and I played together in the Harrow Symphony Orchestra during my schooldays fifty years ago; we worked out that we used to share a lift home with the conductor, Charles Hambourg, and recalled some of the repertoire we used to chop our way through. Talking to these fine people, and many others, gave me plenty to think about while the Replacement Bus inched home across Wiltshire, Hampshire and Surrey on a blustery night.