Honley Male Voice Choir’s popular and well-loved organist and deputy piano accompanist George Marsden has decided to retire after nearly forty-one years loyal service.
His farewell coincides with his 80th birthday which falls on St.Valentine’s Day, Saturday February 14.
And to mark both events the choir is honouring George with a special party to which all choir members, wives, partners and guests are invited. A presentation will be made to George at the party on Friday, February 13 at the Meltham sports and social club in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the life of the choir which he joined in August, 1974.
George, a modest man in constant good humour, endearing himself to choir and audiences alike, has also contributed generally to the musical and religious life of Kirklees. He became known as a man always willing to respond to requests to play for local organisations and at services, funerals and weddings at many local churches.
George, who was made a life member of Honley some years ago, attended a Buckingham Palace garden party in 2003 in recognition of his musical contribution to the life of local societies and churches and last year, when he achieved 40 years service with Honley, he was awarded the honorary title of Organist Emeritus which of course he retains.
Commented the choir’s Acting Chairman Roger Wild, “He has been a wonderful servant to the choir and we shall miss him.”
George who retired from his job as a clerk with Kirklees Council’s Building Services Department in 1993 still lives in the house in Armitage Bridge where he was born on Valentine’s Day in 1935.
When he was six he had piano lessons from Mrs Lily Buckley who was organist at the Salem Methodist Church in Berry Brow. She also agreed to teach him to play the organ, but after only a few lessons she left the area because her husband got another job in Burnley. No-one else could play the church organ and George was asked to help out until another organist could be found.
He played at his first service at the church in December, 1949 when he was 14 and surprisingly he was told that the trustees had held a meeting and decided to appoint him as organist, even though he had never applied for the job. He was paid £10 a year for two Sunday services and Tuesday choir rehearsals, plus ten shillings and sixpence for weddings and funerals.
He was then given tuition by F.W. Greenwood, organist at Holy Trinity Church in Huddersfield and later during his Army National Service in Germany he played the organ on Sundays at the garrison church. When he returned home in 1958 he resumed playing at the Salem church which had to close down a year later because the roof needed repairing and he was appointed organist at the Salendine Nook Baptist Church where he stayed for twenty-one years.
He left there in 1981 and since then he has been playing the organ at St. John’s Church, Newsome and St. Paul’s Church, Armitage Bridge – both on the same Sunday. For many years he was accompanist for the now defunct Honley Gilbert and Sullivan Society and currently plays for the Huddersfield Over Sixties Choir.
George, who played the magnificent Father Willis organ at many of Honley’s Huddersfield Town Hall concerts, won the Mrs. Sunderland Organ Class competition in 1961 and in 1984 he was elected President of the Huddersfield and District Organists Association.
We wish George all the best in his retirement and our grateful thanks for his unswerving service to the choir.
– Stan Solomons