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Alan Spedding RIP


Malcolm Kemp
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Members will be sad to learn that Dr Alan Spedding, for many years organist/director of music at Beverley Minster, and a great influence for good in the music of that area, died yesterday evening.

 

Malcolm

It’s easy to lose track of time, and as a former resident of the East Riding of Yorkshire I remember Alan Spedding’s appointment as Beverley Minster’s organist. I can’t believe it was as long ago as 1967. His retirement from that post in 2009 (it seems like yesterday), made him one of the Minster’s longest serving organists since John Snetzler installed the original organ there in the 18th century.

 

He contributed much to the musical life of the East Riding away from the organ and was closely connected with the University of Hull. He will be greatly missed. Personally, I shall remember him more from listening to several of his fine compositions, particularly for organ, than I shall from his recitals.

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Sad news.

 

On an incidental matter, it's good to hear people referring to it as the East Riding. As I understand it, this change of name (back to the original) came about due to local people's pressure.

 

All we need now is the reinstatement of the North and West Ridings!

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Yes, it is sad. Alan Spedding was also Associate Editor of Organists' Review at one time, and I recall with pleasure and gratitude his kindly and patient attention to my occasional contributions in the form of letters and articles from someone he had never met. People like him in the 'front row' of the IAO do the organisation a great though often unremarked service.

 

From time to time I come across pieces by a J D Spedding from about a century ago, and have wondered whether this composer might have been a forbear of Alan. On the whole I find them definitely useable, as they rise above the tedium of much output from that era.

 

CEP

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A belated response perhaps, but the death of Alan Spedding is sad news indeed.

Although I didn't really know Alan much at all, my occasional contacts with him were never anything other than delightful. He was a modest and diligent man who ran a steady ship at Beverley; maintaining a standard of music at the Minster becoming of a great building.

One special memory of him, was when he welcomed the local organist's association; Beverley being the last port of call after York Minster. His words made me smile, and I have used them myself since:-

 

"I see that you have been to the largest Minster in Yorkshire this afternoon. Now let me welcome you to the most beautiful."

 

He wasn't wrong of course, for Beverley is the jewel in the ecclesiastical crown of that county.

If Alan left only one lasting legacy, it would be the organ at Beverley, because when the time came to re-build the organ last time, he insisted that no tonal changes were made; leaving the organ as a very interesting and very noticeable blend of 18th century Snetzler pipework and newer ranks which, for the most part, blend well. Thus was spared a substantial and quite rare 18th century English chorus sound....refined, bright and reedy in equal measure.

 

I think it is very nice when someone leaves things as they found them; quite happy with what they had.

 

MM

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I'll never forget his setting of "Hail, gladdening light" written in 2002 for Gordon Stewart on his taking over of the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir. It was to be broadcast as an introit for Radio 3 Choral Evensong from Durham School Chapel, as part of the RSCM's first International Summer School that year. Present for the pre-broadcast rehearsal, Dr Spedding broke into floods of tears after hearing it sung through - I reckon because the choir's performance far exceeded his expectations and made for a truly moving rendition of such a beautiful setting. Both the music and his reaction to that first performance spoke volumes about his character and his vision.

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I used to attend the Thursday choral evensongs at Beverley.

 

These were special occasions, especially during the winter months. I think that Alan could be described as a conservative organist who preferred to deploy the organ's beauty rather than its power. He had good taste and would eschew anything that might be considered vulgar. Last verse hymn reharmonisations were a definite no-no.

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