On Saturday 21st January 2017, the Essex Organists' Association held a gala recital at St Nicolas Parish Church, Witham, in order to raise funds for the Christopher Kingsley Memorial Fund.
The aim of the fund is to offer modest grants towards the costs associated with being an organist, such as organ shoes, organ music and organ lessons. The fund is open to organists aged 25 and under who are living, working or studying in Essex. All applications are assessed quickly and fairly, and all applicants will receive a written response soon after their application has been received by the trustees. Please click here to download an application form.
If you would like to make a donation towards the fund, please click here to contact our treasurer, Stephen King.
Please continue reading for the gala concert programme, and Gillian Ward Russell's tribute to Christopher.
William Warns (Felsted School)
Toccata in d minor BWV 538 - J.S.Bach (1685-1750)
Richard Brasier (St Laurence, Upminster)
Partita über 'Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann - J.C.F.Bach (1732-1795)
Jonathan Lilley (Waltham Abbey)
Salix and Toccata (Plymouth Suite) - Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
Tribute to Christopher Kingsley (please see below)
Gillian Ward Russell (St John the Baptist, Danbury)
Quiet Thoughts (from Six Sketches) - Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960)
Scherzo (Symphonie no.2) - Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Gillian Ward Russell and Alice Collier Smith
Canon Two in One - Benjamin Cooke (1734-1793)
Philip Prior (St Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall)
Theme met Variaties - Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981)
Laurence Lyndon-Jones (Chelmsford Cathedral)
Toccata 'Nu la oss takke Gud' - Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
A tribute to Christopher Kingsley by Gillian Ward Russell
Christopher Kingsley was born in Middlesex in 1942 but came as a child with his family to live in Westcliff-on-Sea. In 1965 he married Marian and they moved to Danbury where Marian still lives.
As a boy Christopher was attracted to the music in their parish church (St Andrew’s, Westcliff) and asked his mother if he might join the church choir and learn the organ. Apparently, her reply was, “You can, but you must give it your 100% commitment.” Evidently Christopher did just this, and he eventually became the organist at this church, succeeding his teacher, Mr Manton.
Marian and Christopher married in this church and Mr Manton played the organ for the ceremony, although Christopher played some pieces while he waited for the arrival of his bride.
On moving to Danbury they straightaway became involved in St John the Baptist Church: Christopher joined the choir and, after a few years, on the retirement of Laura Cole, he was invited to become the organist. There was a flourishing choir of children and adults which Christopher thrived in instructing.
Several years went by when, one day, a young man presented himself and asked if he might practise the organ at Danbury. Always one to encourage music in others, whatever their age, Christopher agreed. When he heard this organist play, he was impressed enough to approach the PCC and ask if he might invite Paul Hagger (that was the young man’s name) to become the organist while he himself concentrated on conducting the choir. And so Christopher became the Director of Music. In total he was in post for over 40 years. Christopher’s working life had begun with an apprenticeship with Mander’s Organ Builders, but he decided against this as a career and instead went to work at Marconi’s for the next 13 years.
He then felt the need for a change and took a teaching qualification and became a teacher of woodwork in a school.
As a good citizen he decided to take up Laura Cole’s suggestion to serve as a councillor in Chelmsford Borough Council. He became Mayor, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, although it was hard work and time consuming for both him and Marian. Very unusually, Christopher was made Mayor a second occasion—a proud time, and a period which coincided with Chelmsford becoming a city.
Among his serious hobbies, he maintained his woodwork but he was also a keen and productive gardener and a skilful sailor (in fact to mark this I initially chose as my solo today part of Percy Whitlock’s Plymouth Suite, but I was beaten to it by Jonathan!).
Christopher kept up his musical activities, forming a chamber choir called The Lingwood Consort and becoming heavily involved with the Armstrong Gibbs Society (Armstrong Gibbs was a respected composer who lived in Danbury and played the organ at the Church); the Society, which Christopher chaired, mounted a biennial music festival promoting the music of Gibbs.
This was all very rewarding, but Christopher had always hankered after a career in music, and so he decided to give up full time employment and work towards a music degree at Colchester Institute. Here he was able to further his skills, including conducting and solo singing, and this period of study led to him becoming a music teacher in school. Now he was able to widen his influence among young people, and not be restricted to those associated with the church. He was always encouraging and patient with those who wanted to learn, however slow or inept they might be; and for those with talent, he gave them every opportunity to shine. One such is Alice Collier-Smith, who was allowed to join the St John’s choir at a younger age than normal (partly due, I understand, to repeated requests from Alice and, no doubt, her Mum!).
Christopher was a member of the Essex Organists’ Association, serving as my Vice-Chairman for a period. I (and many others) will remain grateful to him for taking up my idea of an organ visit to Chelmsford’s twin town, Backnang in Germany. Not only did he endorse the idea, he undertook the major part of the organisation. We had a superb time, playing some marvellous organs, visiting an organ school in Stuttgart, and being wined and dined (like the VIPs we were!) by the mayor, dignitaries—and organists—of Backnang.
The years ticked by and Christopher was approaching the 40th anniversary of his appointment at St John’s. He decided it warranted marking, and the way to do this was with an organ recital he would give to friends and members of the parish. Being one who countenanced thorough preparation, Christopher came to me for a course of organ lessons: he’d allowed himself 18 months to achieve this. I was most impressed with the detail of his planning and his commitment to deliver a good performance, and I found him a very willing and able student. The recital was a fine occasion and was captured on CD, so we have a lasting memory of Christopher’s organ playing.
Tragically, not long after this anniversary, Motor Neurone Disease struck, and gradually Christopher was forced to relinquish his Directorship at St John’s. His final service was an immensely moving occasion, as you may imagine.
Christopher leaves Marian and three sons, Martin, Simon, and Richard plus grandchildren; and he leaves wonderful memories for all of us who knew him.