GEOFFREY BOND, MUSICIAN a tribute by Brendan Chandler
Geoffrey was born and brought up in Nottingham and despite living in Somerset for more than half his life, always regarded himself as a Nottingham man. He attended the prestigious High Pavement School and kept in touch with it through the quarterly magazine for Old Paviors.Geoffrey was never a choirboy, but went to Sunday Evensong and became fascinated by organs and learnt to play them from a very early age. He was soon helping out, and was organist and choirmaster at various churches from age 17. The Nottingham church he was particularly associated with was at Bulwell, where he served for some 12 years. His ability to attract and retain choirboys was evident, and he soon had full choirstalls and a row of probationers waiting for a turn. The Bulwell choir was invited to sing in Southwell Minster, a rare honour in those days.
He loved organising Saturdays out for his choirboys. He thought nothing of an early start – 6 am – to go to London, or Liverpool, or Manchester, getting back to Nottingham about 1.30 in the morning. Presumably they would all have had to walk home from the station. And no excuses were allowed for non-attendance on the Sunday morning.
Conscription came the day after Geoffrey’s 18th birthday, but he was offered a posting as a coal miner, and was able to choose a local colliery, which meant he could maintain his church duties and private pupils. He stayed on as a miner after his National Service days for a few years, but then trained as a teacher, serving in some of the more challenging schools in Nottingham.
He had a car accident in 1955, suffering major injuries when the vehicle overturned, trapping his right hand. Hospital treatment put much of the damage right, but he was told that his organ playing days were over. Typically, Geoffrey had other ideas and the determination to prove that forecast wrong.
In 1965 he moved to Richmond in Surrey as organist/choirmaster of the parish church, the job including a teaching post where he met Shelagh, a widow with three children. Friendship flourished and they married in 1968.
The post of organist and master of the choristers at St Mary’s, Bridgwater came vacant in late 1969,and Geoffrey obtained the position, starting on 1 March 1970. Finding a teaching post proved difficult and for several months he was teaching in Richmond, commuting to Bridgwater every weekend. No M4 then! Hospitality was provided by different church families. Eventually, a teaching post at Brymore came up and Geoffrey was able to buy the house in Cannington which was home until he died.
Geoffrey was keen for the choir to take part in activities such as the Diocesan Choral Festival and RSCM courses and visits to sing in cathedrals were regular additions to the programme. Extended visits were undertaken some years to Lincoln, Ely, Llandaff, Southwell and Truro. In other years, non-singing holidays were arranged, principally to the Isle of Wight. Shelagh’s participation in these contributed greatly to their success. When the RSCM Cathedral Singers was formed in this area, Geoffrey encouraged boys and men to apply, and then for many years would help them to learn the music and very often help with providing transport on the day.
By the mid-1990s, sadly, Shelagh was suffering with the onset of Motor Neurone disease and was needing increasing amount of care, and Geoffrey felt unable to maintain his demanding schedule, so resigned in September 1996. He kept his connection with church music by playing at Kingston St Mary. There was no choir when he took over, but this lack was soon remedied. But he was finding the driving involved was becoming irksome and so he finished at Kingston at the end of October 2004 with typical flourish with a full Choral Evensong with an augmented choir.
His interest in organs was not confined to his church work. He belonged to the Nottingham & District Society of Organists (from 1943) and joined the Somerset Organists and Choirmasters Association, serving two terms as Chairman. Again, he gained honorary membership. He was also a member of the Friends of Cathedral Music and of the Campaign for Traditional Cathedral Choirs.
Latterly, he has been less adventurous, content to stay at home and be visited. He liked playing Scrabble – with frequent recourse to the dictionary – and watching television. He died in his favourite armchair with the radio on, probably listening to the broadcast Choral Evensong. Somehow this seems to be entirely fitting.