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Church organist recalls 40 years at keyboard
A MUSICIAN who first played the piano seated on his great aunt’s knee is celebrating 40 years since he was appointed organist and choirmaster at Immanuel Church.
Geoff Gleed, 65, from Blunsdon, is also marking 50 years since he joined the Immanuel United Reformed Church choir, and will mark both musical milestones at a special service next Saturday.
He said: “It seems sort of surreal that it’s been that long. I can remember when the last organist left and she had been there for 19 years, and I remember thinking that was a long time.”
Geoff started playing the piano when he was three years old while sitting on his aunt’s lap and copying the notes she played.
His father arranged formal lessons with a mute piano teacher. Under the guidance of Alvan van Hext, Geoff passed his grade eight exams by 14 and started learning the organ at Immanuel church from then organist and choirmaster Geoffrey Stanley.
Geoff said: “Geoffrey Stanley was one of the founder members of Swindon Young Musicians and the Borough of Swindon Schools’ music adviser, and I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to both of my teachers.”
But Geoff was not always the perfect pupil: “My aunt had given me a tape recorder, and I thought it would be a good idea to record myself playing scales and then leave it on the piano when I was supposed to be practising. Then I went out to play cowboys and Indians.
“It took about three days for my father to realise that I kept making exactly the same mistakes on my scales as I had the day before.”
After taking a degree in music and acquiring a number of diplomas in 1973, Geoff was asked to become organist at the church.
Under Geoff’s leadership, the Immanuel Choir has gone from strength to strength, regularly performing at Sunday services and producing two CDs, a record, and featuring on various radio broadcasts.
But leadership has not been easy and Geoff has had to lead the choir through adversity.
Geoff said: “Sometimes being a church music director can be very frustrating and recently times have changed in terms of people’s lifestyles. We can no longer guarantee the number of singers available on any given day.”
A service celebrating Geoff’s musical milestones will be held at Immanuel Church on Upham Road on October 12 from 5pm.
All are welcome, and Geoff will choose favourite hymns, choir and organ music and there will be refreshments.
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