Professor Dr Maurice Merrell

Master and Chairman of Council

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.

Dr Michael Walsh

Secretary-General and Magazine Editor

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 Managing Director of The Better Book Company, a publishing company based in Chichester.

He has been 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 has been Editor of the magazine Laudate for over 60 issues and has recently been appointed General Secretary for the Guild of Church Musicians.

John Balsdon

B.Ed Hon.MBA P.G.Dip.StratManag FVCM FGMS FIAL(Lond) FRSA
Secretary to the Council

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.

Dr Andrew Linley


Andrew Linley is an Anglican clergyman, currently serving the parish of Christ Church, Broadstairs, in the Free Church of England. Prior to this, he was missionary bishop for the UK of a US-based Anglican church. A specialist in funeral ministry, Andrew is an experienced liturgist who has been interested in music from an early age, and went on to study the subject as an undergraduate of the Open University. He is a member of the Guild of Church Musicians, and holds diplomas from the London and Victoria Colleges of Music, the Australian Society of Musicology and Composition, the Saint Cecilia School of Music (Australia), and the International Music Examinations Board (IMEB). Andrew is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Freeman of the City of London. Elected an Honorary Pontifical Academician in the Pontificia Accademía Tiberina, Rome, in 2016, he enjoys singing Evensong in the choir of St Michael-and-All Angels, Abbey Wood, close to his home in London.

Daniel Spencer


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.

Paul Cheater

Development Officer

In addition to a successful career as a musician, Paul Cheater has enjoyed a wide-ranging and distinguished teaching career that has embraced all aspects of education, from primary to university level, in the United Kingdom and overseas. He has held many positions of responsibility, including that of head, in several schools since he was appointed to his first teaching post at Papplewick School in Ascot in 1973.

Paul was inspired by two teachers while at Kingswood School in Bath: the first was Roger Pope, MBE, who became the Warden of Trinity College of Music, and the second was Dr John Byrt, former organ scholar of St John’s College, Oxford, who left teaching to become a highly acclaimed composer. After Kingswood, Paul went on to train as a teacher with the Oxford University Education Department and concurrently to study the organ at University College, Oxford with the university organist, the late Dr John Webster. He also studied the piano with the Oxford-based pianist, Vernon Mann, and vocal studies with Dr Olga Wilson.

Paul was one of the founder members of the team from Monash University in Melbourne that set up the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and he became a research fellow of Monash in 2008. His involvement with this project led to him giving a number of television and radio broadcasts and also being invited to speak about the project in many different forums. An interview that Paul gave to BBC Oxford may be found here: View article.

He was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the National College of Music and Arts in 2003 for services to music and he has been a member of the College Council since that time, becoming Principal of the college in 2015. He is very much involved in active music-making, being the organist and choirmaster of two churches in the West Country, making him a popular choice as a recitalist in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America.

Dr Howard Dear


Howard studied organ under Professor Ernest Stride at the Royal Marines School of Music at Deal as a teenager and held his first organist position at the age of 14.

A graduate musician, he spent many years training and conducting traditional cathedral-style men and boys’ choirs as well as positions as church organist and choir master.

Howard co-founded the Guild of Musicians and Singers with the late Denis Puxty in June 1993 and has served the Council in many roles ever since.