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Robert Ashfield


DHM

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I am currently working on a research project on the life and works of Robert Ashfield (Organist of Southwell Minster 1946-56 and of Rochester Cathedral 1956-77), the centenary of whose birth we celebrated last July, who first hired me as a supernumerary lay clerk over 40 years ago.

 

Initially I am focusing on his choral and organ music, and his influence on English church and cathedral music post-WW2 (e.g. his work as a Professor of Theory and Composition at the RCM and the RSCM's so-called "Ashfield Committee" on organists' pay scales); but I hope to be able to take this further with an extended study of the large quantity of orchestral and chamber music (almost all unpublished and hitherto unperformed) which he wrote after retiring in 1977.

 

If any of you knew Bobby, met him, or worked with him, I would be most grateful for any personal reminiscences, anecdotes, and any other information that you might consider relevant, either on- or off-list – particularly if you know of any previous performances of his Symphony, Violin Concerto, String Quartets, etc.

 

Amongst all his choral music there is a Te Deum in E flat (now published by Encore) dated 1996; we have no idea why, or for whom, he wrote it, or whether it has ever been performed outside of Rochester.

We also recently discovered a last-verse descant arrangement of “O come, all ye faithful”, and a unison setting (for congregation and organ) of the Gaelic Blessing, but can find no record of either of these pieces ever having been done here or elsewhere.

 

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

 

Douglas.

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Douglas,

 

I first met Dr Ashfield as a young organ scholar who had taken on conducting the now defunct Chatham Dockyard Choral Society.

Dr Ashfield was patron of the society then. -A true gentlemen, he attended every concert I directed and gave me valuable advice...

 

One fond memory I have (was during the interval of a concert of Haydn works), he gave me a lesson on baton gripping for the faster movements of Handel's Messiah! -having jokingly admitted he frequently lost his whilst in front of the Rochester Choral Society!

 

Another occasion, I happened to mention that I also directed the Faversham Choral Society, to which Dr Ashfield's eyebrows raised....yes, he'd heard of them, yes, he directed them, and "all the way through the rehearsal all the basses did was bloody talk, talk, talk!"

 

I have his 3 minitures for organ (Air, Lament and Caprice) -they form great recital pieces; and recently my choirmen performed his introit 'God be in my head' ATB at a Choral Evensong at St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny.

 

keep me up to date with the book..a much missed man...

 

bw

 

(Dr) Peter Litman

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I met him in about 1967 I should think.

 

I was visiting relatives in the Medway area, and, as a keen young organist, made my way to Minor Canon Row and in considerable trepidation asked him if I could possibly spend some time on the cathedral organ. He was kindness personified, escorted me up to the console, listened for a bit, made some registration suggestions, uttered some (very gratefully received) encouragement and advice, and left me to it for a couple of hours. As it happens, I recollect that meeting rather more than I recall the organ itself.

 

In due course, I'd be very interested in sight of the orchestral and chamber music.

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  • 3 months later...

My thanks to those who responded to my question above, and my apologies for the tardy acknowledgement.

 

I wonder whether anyone has a copy of an article which Barry Ferguson wrote about Ashfield in "Choir & Organ" in (or about) 1999 that they might be kind enough to scan and send me?

 

Also - forgive me for repeating my plea above - does anyone here have any knowledge of the workings of the so-called "Ashfield Committee" on church organists' pay scales?

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Also - forgive me for repeating my plea above - does anyone here have any knowledge of the workings of the so-called "Ashfield Committee" on church organists' pay scales?

 

Ashfield's Wikipedia entry says "In the late 1960s, relations between clergy and musicians in the Church of England became increasingly strained over the question of fees and salaries. Ashfield represented the Royal College of Organists, working initially in partnership with William Cole, of the Associated Board and Gerald Knight, director of the Royal School of Church Music, he helped to provide a series of recommendations. However, following delays in their acceptance, Ashfield unilaterally produced his own suggested set of fees. Subsequently championed by The Church Times, the Ashfield Scale, as it became known, stayed in vogue throughout the decade."

 

The source of this information could be his The Times obituary.

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I wonder whether anyone has a copy of an article which Barry Ferguson wrote about Ashfield in "Choir & Organ" in (or about) 1999 that they might be kind enough to scan and send me?

 

 

 

Hi

 

I MAY have the article - it looks as if my copies of C&O start in 1997 - not sure when I'll have time to look though, so please let me know if anyone else has already come up with the article!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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@ Wolsey: Yes, I have that. Thank you.

My question was directed more at anyone who may have been involved or had close knowledge of the proceedings at the time.

 

@ Tony: Thank you - much appreciated.

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