Council

Professor Dr Maurice Merrell

KOSG KStG DLitt DMus FISOB FGMS FSCO FCCM FIGOC FHCO FGCO HonFNCM FIAL(Lond) CompCIL FMCM FRSA
Master

Maurice Merrell has had a life-long involvement with all aspects of organ and church music. He is an organist of much experience, and was for thirty years Organist and Director of Music at the Central London church of St. George, Bloomsbury. There he played for a wide range of services, bringing him into contact with choirs and soloists, and also planning and organising many prestigious recitals and concerts. He is Managing Director of the well-known and long-established firm of organ-builders Bishop and Son, a position he has held for many years. Besides being a Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Organ Builders (also serving on the Council) he is a past President of the London Organists’ Guild and President of the Society of Crematorium Organists.

Maurice Merrell is a Founder Member of the Guild of Musicians and Singers and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1981.

John Balsdon

B.Ed Hon.MBA P.G.Dip.StratManag FVCM FGMS FIAL(Lond) FRSA
Secretary-General

John started his life in music with singing and piano lessons at the age of 6. Shortly after this he joined his local church choir in Portishead near Bristol. It was during these early years that he first sang in a cathedral – Wells – as part of an RSCM music festival. He won a choral scholarship to the cathedral choir at Gloucester where he was a chorister under Herbert Sumsion and John Sanders for four years.

Whilst at school there he continued with lessons in piano and ’cello. Throughout his life he has retained close contact with the life, work and music of the Cathedral at Gloucester which culminated last year with the publication of his book The Organ of Gloucester Cathedral – a story in Words, Pictures and Sound.

However John’s interest in music extends far beyond the world of the organ. He has a keen interest in making live recordings, sound engineering and production, having many historic recordings from Gloucester and the world of classical music in general.

Amanda Balsdon

FGMS
Membership Secretary

I started my musical life at the age of 6 when I joined a local choir.  We used to put on musical shows for Harvest Festival including Oliver and Joseph's Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat which would run for a whole week and I loved it.  My father, a music teacher, started teaching me the piano around this time and this is where my love for playing began.  I also started to learn the violin but this was not really very successful and my father and I thought that the best way forward would be to learn a woodwind instrument.  

Whilst in secondary school I began my bassoon lessons. We were very fortunate in our school to have a very enthusiastic music teacher who ran a recorder group and a great Head of Music who ran the school wind band which is where I first experienced playing in groups. 

By the age of eighteen, I had progressed to grade 8 bassoon, regularly playing in five orchestras and for several operatic societies around Sussex and Surrey, often under my father’s baton.  The last production I played for as a teenager was  Gounod’s opera Faust.

I currently play 1st bassoon for the Chichester Symphony Orchestra and sing 1st Alto in the chamber choir, Chichester Voices. I also regularly sing for visiting choirs when cathedral choirs are on holiday and love meeting up with friends for anything musical.

I am delighted to have been asked to become Membership Secretary for the Guild and very much look forward to meeting many members new and old at our General Meetings.

Dr Michael Walsh

DMus ThD GTCL FTCL HonFNCM HonFGCM FGMS FFCM HonFIMEB F(Comp)ASMC
Treasurer & Editor of Fanfare

Michael Walsh studied singing and organ at the RSCM and Trinity College of Music where he was awarded prizes for choir training, conducting and research. His main performing interest has always been in sacred music and, after eighteen years as Head of Music at a large comprehensive school and nearly thirty years as a Lay Clerk in Chichester and Portsmouth Cathedral Choirs, he now divides his time between working as a freelance musician and as the owner of The Better Book Company, a publishing company based in Chichester.

He was associated with the St. Richard Singers of Chichester for over 40 years (23 as Conductor), and currently sings with the chamber choir Chichester Voices, to whom he is chairman and composer-in-residence. He was Artistic Director and Conductor of the Chichester Symphony Orchestra and for almost 35 years was Musical Director of the Chichester Amateur Operatic Society. In 2016 he was appointed Principal of the National College of Music and Arts, London. He is the General Secretary of the Guild of Church Musicians and has been Editor of their magazine Laudate for over 60 issues.

Michael is an Honorary Fellow of St Paul's College, Sydney and was elected an Honorary Academician of the Pontificia Accademía Tiberina, Rome in 2016.

Dr David Bell

HonDMus, FGMS ARCM LGSM (Hons) FCCM FFCM FIAL FSCO
Member of Council

David Bell was a Silver Medallist at the Guildhall School of Music and completed his organ studies with Ralph Downes and Dr Osborne Peasgood.  Since then, in a long career as organist, he has performed at concerts in most of the principal venues in Europe, North America (principally on the eastern seaboard, including Carnegie Hall in New York), South America, together with several tours to Japan and Australia. 

For fifteen years, he was organist to world−class conductor Herbert von Karajan, and, under his direction, performed on a regular basis with the highly prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  Other conductors he has played under include Sir Georg Solti, Klaus Tennstedt, Kurt Masur, Vernon Handley, Sir Adrian Boult and Franz Welser Most, Georges Pretre and Rostropovich (Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony).   He has also worked on opera productions in Rome, Paris, Vienna and Madrid and Milan.

Early in his career, organ-builder Henry Willis brought him into contact with some of the finest organs in the country. In this connection he gave several demonstration recitals at Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral. His numerous recital locations since have included five public recitals at St. Paul’s, and other recital venues include Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (twice) and Westminster Abbey. 

Among other London venues, he has had a long association with the grand organ in the Royal Albert Hall, on which he has played  for a variety of concerts for over thirty years. 

David held the Office of Master of this Guild for a distinguished period of twenty years.

Rt Revd Dr Richard Fenwick

PhD MA BMus HonFGMS HonFGCM FLCM FTCL
Member of Council

Richard Fenwick was born in Cardiff, his first musical training being as a member of the Llandaff Cathedral Parish Choir under the fondly remembered Kenneth Turner – originally a student under Harold Darke, and composer of a number of anthems, including “O Trinity, most blessed light”.  Richard went on to study Organ under the celebrated Welsh blind Organist, David Williams.  Williams had been a student at the Royal College of Music under teachers including John Ireland and Sir Walter Alcock, and his lessons left an indellible mark – particularly the memories he passed on of tutorials with these great figures.   

After an Arts Degree at Lampeter Richard went on to Cambridge to study Theology. He was ordained in the Diocese of Llandaff, but continued with his studies in Music.  He won Fellowships at the London College of Music and Trinity College London.  He then took his MusB degree at Trinity College Dublin.  This was followed by a Master's in 19thcentury Church Music – and finally a PhD of the University of Wales in Ecclesiastical History. 

Though always lacking time to practice (like us all!) he has played for many Recitals – including the cathedrals at Rochester, Guildford, Coventry, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Bangor and St Woolos Cathedral Newport. He also did two at St Paul's Cathedral, London.  Again, his work in the Church has taken him to many parts of the world – latterly as Bishop of St Helena in the Anglican Province of Southern Africa.

Now, after 7 years on St Helena, he and Jane have returned home for good.  It is with real delight they have come back to their family – but also for Richard into the life of the Guild.  

Daniel Spencer

FGMS FCCM FISOB
Registrar

Daniel’s love of music began studying the Piano as a young teenager soon progressing to brass instruments, principally the Trumpet, sitting various examinations for both of these instruments. Later Daniel took the opportunity to take up the Violin, Clarinet, Guitar and the Bagpipes as the opportunities arose. Daniel has played for public performances in several of the large concert venues in London including The Royal Albert Hall and The Barbican and many other locations both as a soloist and with various orchestras and other groups.

Ultimately, Daniel settled with his passion for the organ and Church music, studying organ with Jonathan Melling. In his professional life, Daniel is employed by a long established firm of organbuilders where he has spent much of his working life and serves with them as Company Secretary and London Works Manager. Naturally, his working environment has kindled Daniel’s musical development and he has developed a special interest in tone colour and has been able to work on his organ playing and choral interests. Daniel has worked with several choirs, both as a singer and as Choirmaster. He has performed as a Soloist on many occasions but now sings between his other commitments with the London Ripieno Singers under the direction of Geoffrey Hanson.