Cross of St Piran 2017: Dr Geoffrey Gibbons BEM, LLB, MA, Ph.D, FRHistS
Being an organist is more than a thread that runs through Geoffrey. It’s a rich and vibrant tapestry that has been tended to, embellished and woven into the fabric of his life since he was a little boy.
Captivated by the music his organist father played, Geoffrey was just seven when he was allowed to accompany his father wherever he went to play. Becoming a choir-boy a year later ensured the roots for his love of church music were deeply embedded so that, aged only 19, he was ready to take up his first organist appointment. That was in 1946. More than seven decades later, having been a church organist from Edgbaston to Egypt, he is still an organist, playing for the congregation of St Tudy.
Just as Geoffrey mastered the intricacies of playing the organ, co-ordinating and harmonising the pedalboards, keyboards and the timbre of the pipes, so too did he master a career in the law. A solicitor in private practice in the West Midlands, Geoffrey went on to serve in many roles within the legal system including becoming Deputy District Registrar and Deputy Circuit Judge.
Geoffrey suffered a collision of cultures in 1984 when serving as Mayor in Solihull. With his wife, Hazel, they accompanied HRH Princess Diana to a concert “by someone called Neil Diamond.” Shuddering as he recalls, he says, “We were duty bound to stand up every time Her Royal Highness did – and she was extremely excitable and stood up a lot!”
Geoffrey is passionate about the organ and its place within worship, so much so that after arriving in St Tudy in 2002, he helped to raise almost £40,000 to rebuild the organ. “You can put a congregation to sleep with sluggish playing, or you can inspire them with imagination,” he says.
Knowing the audience is very important to Geoffrey too, as he explains: “I’ll know if there is someone in church who is perhaps remembering the anniversary of a death of a loved one, so I’ll play something that was particular to them.” In the same way, he loves to play Elgar’s Nimrod at a funeral because it starts off in a solemn way but builds to a huge climax, “With as much organ as you can get, celebrating the life lived.” Much like the Cross of St Piran Award.