Many people came to St. Mary’s Church, Bridgwater on the afternoon of Tuesday, 24th July, where a memorial service for Andrew Morton was held. Andrew died on a recent visit to Leipzig, to the annual Bachfest in the city.
The tribute from a lifelong friend, Robert Bolland, contained surprises for many people. Andrew, so quiet and unassuming, had been a brilliant scholar, specialising in Chinese. After taking a first-class degree at Wadham College, Oxford, and gaining an M.Litt. degree as well, he worked mainly as a translator, spending a number of years in Taiwan. Following semi-retirement to Somerset, Andrew continued to increase his knowledge of European languages: he had, for instance, taught himself Romanian, and had been working on a translation in that language when he died. On two occasions, he had travelled to Russia to live for two or three weeks in a monastery, singing with their choir in the daily round of services in Russian, another language that he had mastered himself. Apparently, he was competent in ten European languages.
Andrew had a lifelong interest in music, playing the violin, and singing in many choirs. In Somerset, he sang tenor for many years with Bridgwater Choral Society, and was a pillar of St. Mary’s choir, loyally singing morning and evening after cycling in from Puriton. He particularly enjoyed evensong, and learnt the settings of canticles and responses regularly sung. In addition, he joined The Southern Cathedral Singers, an R.S.C.M. choir, and regularly toured local cathedrals to sing with them. I remember on one occasion, when the choir was singing at Salisbury, I asked him how he was getting there, when he didn’t own a car.
“Oh, I shall cycle.” he answered with a smile.
Doug Smith, the organist of St. Mary’s, played the gathering music, and just before the service, I played Bach’s Piѐce d’Orgue, which was a particular favourite of Andrew’s. A choir of some 40 singers gathered, made up from groups of singers with whom Andrew was associated. We sang the Agnus Dei, from Fauré’s Requiem, with its lovely tenor melody. During the service, the choir also sang The Russian Kontakion for the Departed, and the Nunc Dimittis to a simple chant. Miles Quick played the service, which included an exquisite Bach chorale prelude during a period of quiet reflection. There were two rousing hymns for everyone, sung with traditional words. Andrew abhorred the current habit of attempting to “modernise” the words, and in so doing, losing the elegance and rhetorical power of the original words!
SOCA has reason to be very grateful to Andrew for all that he did while he held the post of secretary. He led from the front, organising musical events and recitals, and devising a modern website. I am sure that, like myself, all SOCA members will miss him, but will be grateful for his friendship over many years, and count it a privilege to have known him.