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Dr Allan Wicks


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I'm very saddened to read that. Dr Wicks was one of my heroes of the organ loft.

 

I would second that - his was one of the first organ LPs I bought, in EMI's Great Cathedral Organ series. May he rest in peace (though he may be in demand "upstairs" to help out with the heavenly choir!).

 

Peter

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Guest Roffensis

Dr. Allan Wicks was certainly our greatest Cathedral Organist of his generation. He had a stunning technique and wonderful musicianship, combined with excellent Choral skills, as his many solo recordings and indeed recordings directing Canterbury Cathedral Choir testify.

 

Really we are at the end of an era, and I hope that a recording company reissues more of his older recordings so that the younger generation of organists are aware of what he did.

 

Dr. Wicks was very forward looking, and commissioned much modern organ music, which he championed.

 

A very charming and witty man, ever with a spark in his eyes!

 

I always admired him greatly, he was unique.

 

May he rest in peace.

 

Richard Astridge

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May I join fellow contributors in their appreciation of Allan Wicks.

 

He was, as Richard Astridge has said, one of our very finest cathedral organists and choirmasters and his encouragement of new music was a hallmark of his work. Those who knew him will remember his energy, enthusiasm and, as Jenny Setchell has reminded us in a previous note, his impish sense of fun. I had the privilege of being his assistant for an all too short time but I shall remember him and Elizabeth with especial pleasure.

 

I hope that others would wish to join me in expressing to her and her family our condolences in their loss and our appreciation of all the excellent work that Allan achieved in his life.

 

David Harrison

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Really we are at the end of an era...

Richard Astridge

Indeed. As someone said to me in response to my post about Bobby Ashfield's passing 3 years ago, "The Old School is running out of members".

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Dr. Allan Wicks was certainly our greatest Cathedral Organist of his generation. He had a stunning technique and wonderful musicianship, combined with excellent Choral skills, as his many solo recordings and indeed recordings directing Canterbury Cathedral Choir testify.

 

Really we are at the end of an era, and I hope that a recording company reissues more of his older recordings so that the younger generation of organists are aware of what he did.

 

Dr. Wicks was very forward looking, and commissioned much modern organ music, which he championed.

 

A very charming and witty man, ever with a spark in his eyes!

 

I always admired him greatly, he was unique.

 

May he rest in peace.

 

Richard Astridge

 

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

 

I never really came into close contact with Dr Wicks except at recitals, and once at an IAO Congress. Nevertheless, he and I were born within a few miles of each other, and when I was learning the organ, local organists spoke of Dr Wicks in hushed, almost reverential tones; such was his ability and reputation. I think I was all of 15 or 16 when he played a recital at Leeds PC on the huge Harrison instrument, and his choice included Messaien and, if I recall correctly, the Alan Ridout "7 last words."

 

The playing was, as might be expected, quite sensational, and very much appreciated by a large audience. He was certainly one of the very best, and a part of that super-elite league which included Francis Jackson, Melville Cook and a young Nicholas Kynaston among others.

 

The humour came later, at the IAO Congress in Chester, and as was often the case, the willing victim was "Francis" Jackson.

Dr Wicks began his talk with, "Before I start, I'd just like to draw your attention to the pink socks Francis is wearing."

 

Ironically, apart from the music, it may well be the humour that will always be remembered, because Alan Wicks is always connected with the celebrated story, which begins:-

 

"Hello Alan, why are you in Leeds? I thought you were playing Evensong at the Minster to-day."

 

The reply being, "No Francis, it's my day off. I thought you were playing."

 

In organist's circles, it's just as funny as Hoffnung's "Bricklayer Story," and like that, probably contains no truth whatsoever.

 

How legends are born, and live long after the passing of an era.

 

RIP

 

MM

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A thoroughly decent bloke. He will be missed

 

The following remarkable and touching story may be of interest

 

 

In an interview given in 1976, AW recalled an Easter Day eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral at which the congregation was joined by some 100 physically and mentally handicapped children from the Canadian organisation ARCHE, each accompanied by two helpers.

 

"They brought with them little bells, which they rang when they sang their own things. And the great thing was this: when we sang the William Byrd "Haec Dies" as the Gradual, they rang their bells. When we got to the climax of the piece, they spontaneously rang their bells. In a second we learned that it doesn't have to be 'pop' music' to encourage that, it's any sort of ecstatic utterance. That was an Easter Day service such as I've never experienced in my whole life. When we went up to receive the sacrament, we were greeting one another. I met two people who had gone to live in Canada, years ago, and there they were on the altar steps. And we embraced on the altar steps. Now, we should never have done that if we hadn't had those children - they were grown-ups - but they were children, and we became as children".

 

JS

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MM retells the splendid story about Dr Wicks and Dr Jackson meeting some distance from York and had a brief discussion about who might be playing for Evensong; he suggests that, like so many of these “legends”, it may be just that.

 

I should like to assure him that such is not the case as the first time I heard the story it was from Allan himself; my memory, in the autumn of my life, is inclined to fail, and it was nearly fifty years ago but I seem to recall that Allan told me that he was either accompanying or conducting a rehearsal for a choral concert in Leeds one Saturday, when about 4 o’clock the time that Evensong was then sung at York and during a break in the rehearsal he bumped in to Dr Jackson who had just entered the hall. The conversation was much as MM recounted it, but I have to say that I never discovered how the problem was resolved at York. The expression from Allan “she dived without a trace” hangs in the memory and I suspect that sub conductors with unaccompanied music covered the occasion.

 

David Harrison

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I am not an organist, merely an attender of recitals. Two people aroused my interest; living in Chester one was inevitably Roger Fisher but the other was Dr Wicks. One of the first recitals I attended outside Chester was at Liverpool Metropolitan where he played a mixture of old and modern, I was amazed by his virtuosity and his good humour. Nearly 40 years later it's a recital that still sticks in the memory. Indeed a great man.

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Guest Roffensis

Allan Wicks was one of a generation who were all excellent but all seemed to have different qualities. Allan was the one with the formidable technique, but with incredible musicianship. Even "lesser" pieces would shine under his hands. I am fortunate to have been born in 1959 and so heard many in their heyday, so feel a little inclined to feel pretty accurate in what I heard. Allan "shocked" me several times, he would at times "throw around" the Canterbury organ, together with caution. He took risks that many simply wouldn't have dared, and won. A close friend of mine described his playinbg at times as "frenetic". It was. He was a Canterbury Cathedral Marcel Dupre.

 

Allan's contemporary, Francis Jackson has a totally different style, very genteel, laid back, and has a relaxed almost understated feel to it. A wonderful organist, with a very different approach to music.

 

These two Organists are the ones that really stick in my mind, both in key positions, and both with artistry that is rarely matched even today.

 

 

R

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I had the privilege of meeting Dr Wicks, at the Gala Concert in Bath Abbey to mark Peter King's 20th anniversary there in 2006. The Rector invited several key figures from PK's past to participate: Gillian Weir and Nicolas Kynaston played and gave speeches including their own anecdotes about him, and Allan Wicks gave a speech remembering him as a chorister and organ pupil. (Originally he was to have performed too; I believe he declined to play on the grounds that he was "past all that," and a later attempt to get him a walk-on part guest conducting the Abbey Choirs in Parry's "I was glad" also failed.)

 

From his tale of trying to persuade the young PK to learn a piece of Bach and meeting with reluctance, he gave us all the impression that he had been a tolerant and patient teacher, winning the respect of all those who studied with him. It seems clear from the testimony of others (writing in Church Music Quarterly on the occasion of his 80th birthday) that he was equally patient and amiable as Cathedral Organist, helping many choristers to realise their full potential. (Perhaps one or more of his former choristers might be able to confirm that on here?)

 

So, yet another 20th century Cathedral Music figure has passed away. The "old fraternity" is indeed shrinking; Francis Jackson and Stanley Vann are presumably now the last of that generation?

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So, yet another 20th century Cathedral Music figure has passed away. The "old fraternity" is indeed shrinking; Francis Jackson and Stanley Vann are presumably now the last of that generation?

 

Is Richard Seal of their generation, or a bit younger? Whichever, he also has/had some rather special qualities as a choir trainer, mentor, conductor etc.....

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Is Richard Seal of their generation, or a bit younger? Whichever, he also has/had some rather special qualities as a choir trainer, mentor, conductor etc.....

 

Richard Seal was 74 last December.

 

The others of this generation are Ernest 'John' Warrell, and - of course - Sir David Willcocks.

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My first post here as a member having been viewing for a year or two. With all the tributes to Allan Wicks here I feel moved to add my own from a different and privileged perspective.

 

First of all though I am not an organist, (although I did play it in my later school years) but I am an avid enthusiast of the organ and its music, inspired I am sure by Allan Wicks during my time as a choirboy at Canterbury Cathedral from 1959-64. (Allan came in 1961).

 

Even as young choristers we were aware of his enthusiasm for "modern" music and French in particular especially Messiaen. As others have mentioned, his enthusiasm and sense of humour were just some of his virtues.

 

I was a bit of a late developer and he was patient with me. Indeed on one occasion during the rehearsal of a particularly difficult piece with an awkward interval that most were getting wrong, he stopped and looked at me and asked me to sing the note! I hadn't a clue, but thought "initiative test here- sing something!" So I did- which must have been right because he said "well done Gibbo" (my nickname), and thrust his hand in his pocket and gave me threepence! I wish that I had kept it now, but I went out and bought some sweets.

 

So, at the weekend I excavated the music and record chest and put onto my 1970's system (Pioneer PL12D- Lynsley-Hood 75 Amp - Kef Concertos) Transports de Joie from the Organ Showpieces album. Need I say more...

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Funeral to be held at Wye PC on the 22nd - dont know the time yet

 

The notice in the paper gives the following information:

 

Dr Allan WICKS (CBE) died peacefully at home on 4th February. Dearly loved husband of Elizabeth and loving father of Lalu and Jo, grandfather of Charlotte, George and Charlie. Funeral Service in Wye Parish Church (Ashford) Kent at 2.30pm on Monday 22nd February 2010. Thanksgiving Service in Canterbury Cathedral to be announced. Family flowers only, donations to The Alzheimers Society or The Voices Foundation c/o Earl & Co, Albemarle Road, Willesborough, Ashford, Kent TN24 0HL Tel 01233 620522.

 

 

PL

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Perhaps I can add two further points on the life of Allan Wicks. Looking back as a choirboy, one was conscious of his attention to detail in the singing of the Psalms. Other canticles too of course, but the Psalms with their vibrant descriptive language are what I remember. Whether it be a few short ones or the 15th evening they were a joy to sing.

 

 

I am pleased to report that David Flood continues this attention to detail and should also mention- as this is an organ forum- how important and sympathetic the role of the organist is in accompanying the Psalms

 

 

The other point I would like to record is that for many years he was Conductor and Director of Music for the Canterbury Choral Society (with whom I still sing). We were/are a lucky choral society to have had him as conductor and the Cathedral as our performance venue. Massive works such as Mahler 8, Bach B Minor mass or Gerontius went hand in hand with gentler works such as Fauré's Requiem.

 

A riddle for Roffensis:- "Take a straighter stronger course to the corner of your life." Affirmative band?

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