St Tudy organist recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours
The organist at St Tudy Church has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Geoffrey Gibbons from St Tudy received the award for services to church music and the community having spent over 70 years playing the organ in churches around the country.
Geoffrey, who is also Secretary of St Tudy Parochial Church Council, said the award had been ‘a surprise and his family were all very proud’.
The family are not strangers to honours from the Queen. Geoffrey’s brother John, a Thoracic Surgeon, received the MBE for his part in the first heart transplant operation.
Geoffrey will receive his BEM from the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall at a service later in the year.
Geoffrey’s services to music and the community has stretched over 70 years.
He said: “I was a choirboy from the age of seven and my father was at one time the Deputy Organist at Birmingham Cathedral and that’s where I began to learn. It was while I was studying law in Birmingham that I was offered my first organist position at St Ambrose Church in Edgbaston and being a student, I needed a bit of income.”
Geoffrey started in 1946 and continued throughout his studies eventually leaving in 1960 to take up the post of organist at Henley in Arden Parish Church, near Stratford Upon Avon. “I chose to go there because I knew the church had a large, competent choir. They were very good and we sang a huge range of music, even Handel’s Messiah. I ended up staying until 1994 and during that time I’d rebuilt the organ there and attracted several Cathedral Organists to come and perform.”
Geoffrey also took on several roles including becoming solicitor to the Incorporated Association of Organists for 20 years.
Despite retirement, Geoffrey was not one to slow down, and so he went back to university. “In 1994 I retired from legal practice and decided I needed to be educated a bit more. I went back to Warwick University and I got an MA and PHD in History in 1999. I wrote a thesis on Henry V111’s last Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley. No one had written anything about him before. It was published as a book in America.”
Geoffrey was also invited to be the Organist at the private chapel of the Earl of Aylesford at Packington and he stayed there until the move to Cornwall in 2002 with his wife Hazel.
It wasn’t long before his skills were spotted in St Tudy and he was asked to be the organist, a role he still holds.
“When I was offered the job here I said I would take it on one condition, that I could rebuild the organ. It hadn’t been touched in 120 years and it was virtually unplayable. The PCC said yes but I had to raise the £37,000 to do it which I did.”
Geoffrey was even able to source an organ from another church out of county and that was incorporated into the new organ. “The organ now is very good, one of the best small organs in Cornwall.”
Despite over 70 years of playing, Geoffrey says he was never a professional. “I was always an amateur. I was a solicitor all my life and served seven years as a Deputy Circuit Judge and I was a councillor in Solihull for 32 years including serving two terms as Mayor. With the organ work on top, it was a very busy existence and its not changed much since we arrived in St Tudy!”