Two distinguished former members of The Barnby Choir, Elisabeth Hessey and Stanley Kirkham, passed away in April. Here we pay tribute to them.
MONA ELISABETH HESSEY 1921 – 2015
Always known as Elisabeth, to distinguish her from her mother Mona, Liz – as her friends all called her – sang as a first soprano with The Barnby Choir for over 30 years until the age of 90, when mobility problems (not her voice, which was still in fine fettle!) forced her to retire. During the same period she was also singing with the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union, driving herself to Liverpool for weekly rehearsals, summer and winter. She was the product of musical parents who had met in the Hallé Choir, and it was her proud boast that her father, Walter, who was 63 when she was born and therefore a young man in the second half of the nineteenth century, had sung with Sir Charles Hallé himself. Liz too was a member of the Hallé Choir for 35 years.
Liz led an amazingly rich life. During the war she joined the Wrens and became an aircraft inspector at Woodford Aerodrome. Later she worked for Rothschild’s the bankers. She was a guide captain, she loved to travel, she was a keen member of the National Trust and the local history group. She was a fine hockey and tennis player and played county cricket for Cheshire. She was a top-class spin bowler! But in the end her passion was, as we all know, music. Until her last years, in addition to her singing, she was a keen member of the Elgar Society, the Wagner Society and the Bramhall Recorded Music Society. She had a season ticket for the Thursday concerts at the Hallé and her greatest musical love was Handel’s Messiah. She attended over 80 performances of Messiah (singing, as she liked to say, in half of them), the last in 2012.
Liz was a remarkable woman who died full in years and full of achievements. We were privileged to sing with her and to enjoy her lively company and her unending fund of stories.
STANLEY KIRKHAM 1923 – 2015
Stanley and his wife Nancy originally lived in Handforth, where they both sang in the St Mary’s Methodist Church Choir. Stanley’s outstanding singing voice meant that he was often called upon to sing solos, in such works as Stainer’s Crucifixion or Olivet to Calvary.
On moving to Wilmslow during the 1970s, Stanley joined The Barnby Choir and was a stalwart of the second basses for some 35 years. He was a member of the Choir when, In 1989, it was invited by the Goldsmiths’ Society to join with 32 other choirs in a performance of the Grande Messe des Morts by Berlioz at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Stanley and Nancy had three children, and their daughter Celia and her husband also sang with the Choir at one point. In addition to his singing, Stanley had a lively interest in music and the arts, sometimes travelling quite a distance to attend events, and he was always keen to discuss concerts, plays or exhibitions he had been to. When no longer able to sing with the Choir he came out to support us at our concerts. He was also an enthusiastic golfer.
Stanley was a perfect gentleman, unfailingly courteous to all, and very friendly towards new members. We were extremely fortunate to know him and to sing with him for so many years.
With thanks to Geoffrey Scargill and Barbara Welton for biographical details