Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Colin M. Howard 1944-2008

I realise this post will probably be of little interest to those who visit here primarily for the quality of the political analysis (!) but this is my online diary as well as my political blog and I could not let today go by without noting the passing of my former choirmaster and music teacher Colin Howard, who has died in Cape Town aged 63.

As this obituary from the Cape Town Opera website reveals, Colin died on 26 May after a battle with cancer. His death was only brought to my notice earlier today.

Colin was organist and choirmaster of St Mary's Church, Hitchin and Director of Music at Hitchin Boys' School in the 1970s, and one of the greatest men I have ever met. He taught me moreorless all I know about classical and choral music and being a part of the choir in his time was one of the most important and formative experiences in my life.

Alhough he did bring to the role a huge sense of fun, he never forgot that the work of a church choir was primarily about glorifying God. I cannot improve on this description of him that appears in his Cape Town Opera obituary.

"He believed there was a place in church for a wide spectrum of music, performed to the highest standards, to the glory of God. He also felt strongly that church musicians should be people concerned with spiritual growth, willing to be team players in helping to realise the multifaceted demands of being involved in the church."

Colin was one of two or three teachers to whom I owe a very great debt. I regret I never got the chance to tell him so to his face.

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Anonymous said...

Dear Paul

Thank you for this ... and sympathies to you and this young man's family

What a great privilege a good teacher has to influence young people for the better

Yr obedient servant etc


Anonymous said...

I was told of Colin's death a couple of weeks ago by someone who taught both of us - Andrew Parr. I was having lunch with him and already on one strand of nostalgia fest when he dropped that bombshell. It brought quite a few memories back to the surface.

I'm not stalking your blog btw. I just put Colin Howard musician into Google and up you popped. It was my second recent encounter with you, having for a while (when I was a Lib Dem councillor in Tandridge) been the regular recipient of a freebie copy of a mag you used to write for.

Jeffrey Gray

Paul Linford said...

Hi Jeff,

Good to hear from you. I heard you did a concert at school last summer to mark the Old Boys' centenary - sorry to have missed that. I still write for Total Politics magazine btw if that was the freebie mag in question!

Anonymous said...

I often find myself missing Mr Howard. I miss him to the point of a Google search, where finding a piece like this brings me comfort as it reminds me of the wonderful man he was and how loved he was and still is.

Thank you

Jan said...

Type in Heir Hunters BBC Doreen Walker Lewisham. She was an opera singer, and Colin Howard's ex wife. Very interesting programme, show on the telly 2nd Dec 2011.

Paul Linford said...

Thanks for the link Jan. I have just watched this programme on iPlayer and it's very hard to reconcile what happened with the people I knew in Hitchin back in the 1970s.

I have very happy memories of them both being the life and soul of the party in those days and it is very hard to square that with the circumstances in which Doreen later found herself.

I had to laugh though at the bit when the young 'heir hunter' scoffs at the idea of her being from Huddersfield and said she was probably from London. Anyone from those Hitchin days could have told him she was from Huddersfield as she had a broad Yorkshire acent and regularly used to talk about having watched Huddersfield Town in her youth.

One of her favourite stories was that when she left Yorkshire to embark on her singing career her dad, Eric Walker, had advised her not to marry a southerner. After she got engaged to Colin, she rang up her dad and told him the good news. The exchange went something like this:

Doreen: "Dad, I'm marrying a southerner."
Eric: "How far south?"
Doreen "Cape Town."
Eric: "Blooody 'ell!"

Unknown said...

Paul, I've just come across this page after a long search for information about Colin Howard. He was my teacher for A-Level music at Colfe's School 1978-80. You words are spot on, and I can only confirm everything you said about him. I was lucky enough to be the only A-level music pupil for those two years, which meant I had all the benefits of his teaching, values and enthusiasm, which have stayed with me ever since, as now after all these years, I'm still a musician. Thanks, all though so sorry to hear he passed away before I could find him.