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John Winter 1923-2012


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Apologies if this has appeared elsewhere, though I couldn't find anything.


I found out, quite by chance, that John Winter, who was DOM, and previously assistant, at Truro Cathedral for many years died 21 February.


I knew John a little and often heard him play in my youth. After he retired from the Cathedral, he took over from me at St. Andrew's Redruth (and played for my wedding, whilst there) for a short time before moving closer to home at King Charles the Martyr at Falmouth.


He knew the Willis organ intimately, of course, and I always felt his style suited it as well as any other player I've heard. He had a great facility for improvisation: perhaps not the complex musical forms of some of our present-day virtuosi, but posessed of harmonic and melodic invention, always appropriate and never tiresomely loud at the slightest provocation.

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Good to see that bwv572 has written in about John Winter, rather an unsung hero of the organ world in Cornwall over many years. I knew of him throughout my boyhood as my father was an Honorary Canon of Truro, though I was away at St Paul's. John always seemed to me a shy and reserved man who hated the limelight and anything of a showy nature. For example, I'm sure he was happier upstairs playing and leaving Henry Doughty, the assistant, to conduct the choir. He played recitals all over Cornwall but kept to a rather safe repertoire really. I recall a Pastorale by Zipoli, Crown Imperial, Purcell Trumpet Tune and Air arranged Dupre. He recorded the Harris Sonata in A minor. Like everyone over time, he loved the Truro organ and was gentlemanly in his command of it. The fact that the Tuba was tucked away at the back of the chamber rather suited him, if you see what I mean. I recall two visits to the loft for evensong. He played Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam, on the first occasion, and allowed me to play the voluntary on a subsequent occasion - I was only 15 or something. Seeing that I had selected the Coleman/Stanley Suite for Organ, and with only seconds available to register and get my bearings, he drew the Tuba and said, "I suppose you want to use this." A year or two later he invited me to give one of the summer evening recitals which I much enjoyed. John also liked his pipe, and would stoke it enthusiastically upon emerging from the side door into the close. in August 1977 he took delivery of a brand new Ford Escort 1.6GL . How do I remember that?! Well, my father did the same and, actually, it was 1977 that I gave that summer recital - it's all coming back to me now - because I met John in the close to be let into the cathedral, and I arrived in my father's new Escort and was amused to find John waiting in his. Enough Cooke anecdotes for one summer!


Ah, but of course, John was first of all assistant to Guillaume Ormond about whom anecdotes abound: Things like driving down from Truro to Penzance to give a recital at St Mary's, coming back on the train and reporting his car stolen upon his return home... they go on and on! A fine organist and pianist, I understand, in his day but terribly unreliable in his final years in office.

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