Celebrating Kendrick

An appreciation of Kendrick Partington

The following series of tributes to Kendrick Partington were occasioned by the special Coffee Break concert which marked his eightieth birthday on the 29th October 2005.

From Philip Collin

Kendrick PartingtonI first met Kendrick at my interview for the job of Director of Music for St Peter’s. I had just finished playing the organ (the final part of the interview) when he bustled over to me, introduced himself and warmly congratulated me on my playing. This was the first of many such encounters where Kendrick has enthusiastically and sincerely spoken kind words to me. His continuing support for the choir and the music generally at St Peter’s is much appreciated by us all.

I had heard of Kendrick before coming to St Peter’s. He is an institution; not just at St Peter’s but across Nottingham’s whole musical community. When I tell people where I’m organist, they tend to say something like “Oh yes, that’s Kendrick’s church” or “That’s Kendrick’s job!” There are clearly many people who have worked with or under Kendrick and benefited from his wisdom and expertise and this was reflected quite emphatically in the huge audience in attendance at the concert celebrating his eightieth birthday and the number of singers returning to St Peter’s that morning to participate.

Philip Collin

From Keith Charter

My main memory of Kendrick throughout his time as Organist and Master of Choristers is his complete dedication to all aspects of the post. I would like to dwell though on some aspects of his care of the choir and its choristers. An early recruitment leaflet displayed his vision for the choir and youngsters in particular, to quote; “a treble line trained to a high standard of musicianship, with the emphasis very much on the principle of service and teamwork; a way to further develop the sense of belonging to a friendly organisation of which to be proud; spiritual insights which choristers gain to stand them in good stead as they pass on to higher education and adulthood”.

Kendrick had a real passion for the musical advancement of the junior choristers. It was a privilege to work with him as Choir Secretary through many Grade and Bursary Tests where ‘promotion’ - and an upgraded ribbon colour - was the reward as well as perhaps an extra penny or so Choir Pay per service or a bigger Bursary cheque at the end of the year! Kendrick was instrumental in setting-up the Choral Bursary Scheme and was delighted when the Charity Commission was finally persuaded to allow the bequest from his predecessor, Vincent Trivett, to be translated into assistance towards the cost of vocal or instrumental lessons for the junior choristers. Holders of the Trivett scholarships were encouraged to take part in the annual performance by choristers at one of the Coffee Break Concerts, another St Peter’s tradition established by Kendrick particularly to give a platform for young musicians in the city.

Not resting on the provision of an excellent choir at St Peter’s for worship week by week, Kendrick took them annually around the Cathedrals of England where choristers and organists alike were uplifted by the experience. This list includes Beverley Minster, Bristol, Bury St Edmunds, Coventry, Gloucester, Hereford, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Peterborough, Ripon, Sheffield, Southwell, St Alban’s, Tewkesbury Abbey, Worcester and York as well as St George’s Chapel, Windsor and St Paul’s Cathedral. The week-end of services at St George’s Windsor in 1989 was the first choir tour! Mostly the trips were undertaken in two coaches with a sizeable contingent of ‘supporters’ from the congregation. In earlier days, there were annual trips to Skegness and Southwell c/o British Railways steam, the latter including a change at Rolleston Junction en route! Southwell was a full day affair with cricket and bowls on the park preceding Evensong which in turn was followed by High Tea at a local hostelry. Kendrick also took the choir to churches in the Diocese that did not have a choral tradition and this was all part of his wish to widen the experience of the choristers as well, of course, as taking the music to those parishes.

There was also the annual post-Christmas treat of a party for junior choristers followed by a visit to the cinema. As times changed, the party (with party games!) was dropped and the outing was to the pantomime performances at The Playhouse where Kendrick enthused over the live orchestra.

I would like to close by going back to the recruitment leaflet and quoting another piece from it: “The Choir’s primary purpose is to play a central part in leading the congregation in the worship of God according to the traditions of the Church of England”. Without that purpose, I suggest that none of the rest of Kendrick’s work would have had the same impact on the hundreds of choristers who passed through his hands over those 37 years!

Keith Charter

From Mike Leuty

The choir rehears before the Kendrick Partington Coffee Break concertI was very pleased introduce the special Coffee Break concert for Kendrick. I had only known him for 37 years so I'm sure they could have found someone better qualified, but several other people helped me to prepare my notes. For my part I remember sitting in the music room of Nottingham High School as a new boy, in my new long trousers, eating my Marmite sandwiches while Kendrick rehearsed the tenors and basses. “Thus sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana - long live fair Oriana.” There I was, eleven years old and just started at a new school, when suddenly I found myself singing 16th century madrigals. That was the sort of thing I came to expect from Kendrick: the opening of new musical horizons, always presented with enthusiasm and the confidence that we could cope with it.

Our first guest at the concert was the Director of Music at St Mary's. There was a time when that would have been unexpected. When Kendrick was appointed organist at St Peter's in 1957, relations between the two church choirs were rather frosty. It wasn't long before the warmth of his personality produced a thaw. But when John Keys arrived at St Mary's in 1984 he found that the music here was being run by the father of his old friend Adrian. That was the start of a relationship of great mutual respect between the two Directors of Music which I am pleased to say still holds true today. Although the two choirs proudly maintain their separate traditions, their Directors are singing from the same hymn sheet.

An organist is nothing without his assistant, and we were delighted that two of Kendrick's assistants could play at the concert. Some older members of the choir will remember Leslie Jenkins who was the assistant for many years, but is sadly no longer with us. David Page took over the organ bench in 1982 and remained there for more than a decade. He told me that during this time he received what amounted to a cathedral training. He was greatly inspired by Kendrick and was given a massive amount of practical advice by him. Nigel Day took over as assistant organist in 1993 and stayed for six years, supporting Kendrick loyally both at St Peter's and elsewhere.

Kendrick has done so much for so many people, inspiring them and bringing out their musical gifts. A few have gone on to become professional musicians, but many more have benefited from the love of music he instilled in them. As well as his work at the High School and running the church choir, Kendrick founded the St Peter's Singers to give more people the chance to sing, and started the Coffee Break Concerts which are intended to give young local musicians the opportunity to perform. Sheila George, one of the St Peter's Singers, described him as “an inspiring choirmaster - brilliant, full of enthusiasm and a perfectionist”. He is certainly someone that you remember, and remember with affection. We tried to get as many old choristers as possible to the concert, not just to attend but to sing in the choir again. Everyone that I spoke to was delighted to have been invited, and those who could not make it were genuinely sorry.

Back in 1993 at an earlier Coffee Break Concert, Kendrick accompanied his daughter Catherine as she gave a 'cello recital. She played a set a variations which were disturbingly modern, and I wondered whether he really liked that sort of thing. I later found out that he had written them. He has also written a number of works with St Peter's in mind. His setting of the mass is still sung here regularly on Sunday mornings. And at the concert the choir sang his setting of a poem written by Richard Evans, a member of our congregation, about our patron saint. The piece was dedicated to the St Peter's Singers and Nigel Day.

Adrian Partington is used to playing at his father's concerts. I first heard him in the early 1970s when he played the piano part of Beethoven's Choral Fantasia in a High School summer concert. Since then he, like John Keys, has gone on to become a distinguished recitalist and choir director. But he has always been ready to return and help his father when needed, and on this occasion he managed to keep his participation in the concert secret until the last minute. But I would also like to mention another member of the Partington family who has provided unstinting support for Kendrick over the years. Someone who has stayed modestly in the background, but who has provided practical and moral support to help him cope with the ups and downs of a musician's life throughout their marriage. I am referring of course to Mary.

As mentioned above, while preparing these introductions I contacted several people asking for their memories of Kendrick. They all spoke of him in glowing terms. Leslie Morley (who was unfortunately unable to attend the concert) described his sheer professionalism and commitment to excellence, his spiritual and liturgical awareness and sensitivity, and his compassion and concern for people. Peter Smith recalled “his unfailing enthusiasm, his acute memory, his eagerness to learn more and more, and his knack of inspiring other people to believe in themselves.” But what I remember most about him is his encouragement. If your performance has been a bit lacklustre, he always finds something to praise in it, which spurs you on to do better next time. But if you have given a good performance then his congratulations are strong and heartfelt, which makes it even more important to maintain that high standard. True to form, after the concert Kendrick let the assembled musicians know that their performance had exceeded expectations. As he succinctly put it: “it's not often that I'm lost for words...” He also said that he found it strange that he should be thanked for what he had done, because he had loved every minute of it.

We loved it too, Kendrick. Thank you.

Mike Leuty

From John Parry

It was without hesitation that I accepted the invitation to provide a short personal commentary on Kendrick’s influence on our family, as a parent of former junior choristers and as a choir member. My difficulty has been with the word ‘short’. Over the twenty-one years that Jo and I have known Kendrick and Mary, both have contributed so much in terms of musical appreciation and support to the family, in addition to becoming our personal friends and influential in my own singing contribution at St Peters and a wider audience.

Within a few months of arriving in Nottingham from Scotland in 1984, our son William was being taught the violin by Mary in addition to singing for Kendrick in the Nottingham High School for Boys Choir. With Stephen, our eldest son, playing the violin for Kendrick in the School Orchestra. Within the year, following agreement for William to join St Peters Church Choir, Kendrick invited me to join the Bass line with Catherine soon following me into the choir. As many readers will recall, Kendrick’s St Peters Singers were well established and through his influence gave Jo the opportunity to join the ‘Singers’. Thus forming a third St Peters musical family to join the Holland and Baggaley families, with three or more family members contributing to the musical life and worship of St Peters. As then and since, Kendrick’s support to us and other families has clearly demonstrated his motivational skills to young and old alike, his kindness and generosity. As a parent, the musical foundation, wonderful support and opportunity given to our children is, I am sure, a reflection and example of so many other parents’ experiences of Kendrick’s influence. In due course, Catherine became Head Girl in the Choir and we will always remember Kendrick’s support to her and other members of the choir youth group, who wrote words, music and acted in an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. The group included Tim Sutton, now an established West End Musical composer.

Even in retirement Kendrick has shown his generosity and support. When asked if he would play the organ for Stephen’s wedding in London, he responded with an immediate resounding yes. Jo and I were delighted of course and the fact that the opportunity to play Widor’s Toccata on the newly built magnificent St Johns Smith Square organ was purely coincidental!

For the children, Kendrick & Mary have played an important part in their musical education. In addition, as a first class musician the influence and support by Kendrick to our family has clearly been and always will be much appreciated. Equally, the vision and energy Kendrick has given to St Peters Choir has been enriching for all those members who sang under his guidance. The chosen repertoire and performances as visitors to other Churches and Cathedrals provided the choir with much appreciated opportunity and experience. It is a fitting legacy that subsequent Directors of Music have maintained this tradition. Both as parents and good friends we thank Kendrick and Mary for enriching our family musical enjoyment and wish them both a continued happy retirement.

John Parry

From Vernon Claridge

In 1957, I was an eleven-year old chorister at St Peter’s and preparing to start at Carlton-le–Willows Grammar School. It was the time when I met two men who were going to influence an important part of my future life. Mr Partington - may I now call you Kendrick? - came to St Peter’s as Organist and Choirmaster, and W V Todd was music master at C-le-W. Kendrick influenced my love of choral music and W V Todd my love of orchestral music. Both were prime movers in encouraging and teaching me how to participate in the music-making which I have enjoyed ever since.

Under Kendrick’s guidance my musical interpretation of hymns, psalms, anthems, and choral works rapidly grew. I also remember the times when, with trepidation, I turned the music for the organ voluntary. We enjoyed summer trips to Southwell, singing in the Minster. It was not all music however, and Christmas parties and trips to the old Playhouse were a highlight of the year - most aptly I think in 1961, when the production was ‘The Happiest Days of Your Life’. Those happy childhood days were coming to an end and my treble voice eventually descended through to bass before settling somewhere around high baritone where it has stayed.

For three years I enjoyed the opportunity of singing with the St Peter’s Singers formed in 1965 - (also a good year for weddings - Glenys Isaacs, Keith Charter, and Christine Pratt to Tony Humphreys).

In May 1968 the choir visited Worcester Cathedral and shortly after that I left Nottingham to start my first job in Kent. I missed my music making, but given the sound Nottingham tuition, by October I was playing in Maidstone Symphony Orchestra (where I was to meet my future wife) and singing at the Kent Music School.

In1980, I moved to the North-East and was again soon enjoying more music. A move to Derbyshire in 1990 was made just in time for the St Peter’s Singer’s 25th Anniversary Dinner - an opportunity to meet old and new friends and celebrate the longstanding friendships forged through music-making.

And so it has gone on, music has been and is still with me everywhere. Since leaving St Peter’s, I have sung in many musical groups and societies I regularly sing and play whenever and wherever I can, always remembering my mentors. The gift of a lifetime of Music is wonderful. Thank you Kendrick for imparting that gift to me, and Many Happy Returns.

Vernon Claridge

From Andrew Davys

Anyone who has sung for Kendrick for a sustained period will doubtless have much to recall. I have personally over the last 25 years amassed enough stories, anecdotes and memories to fill a box the size of China. From these I have selected a special moment on June 8th 1993, seconds before a performance of Britten’s St Nicholas Cantata, at which yours truly was singing the tenor role, with the St Peter’s Singers. I had - somehow - done this previously with same ensemble in 1987. This was at a particularly dark time in my life and I therefore had erased most of it from my consciousness. This performance however, was going to be my Magnus Opus, better prepared, better delivered and to that end, Kendrick and I agreed that it would be beneficial if I had personal rehearsals chez Partington in Devonshire Road. Plus the hospitality was - and remains - flawless.

At our first rehearsal I recall Kendrick asking me quite early on whether I understood key changes and shifting tonality. I replied that my musical acumen was thus - “ When the notes go up, so do I and when they go down, ditto.” Now, mock you may, but I know several choristers - obviously in other choirs - who to this day, struggle to grasp this basic truth. The glance he shot me suggested “There’s still time to do Schubert in G, Mozart in C, the Pub in 3 - even Joseph and his Amazing Load of Tosh, which remains the worst piece of music ever written by anyone!” (Made up that last bit – just using this opportunity to get it off my chest.)

Undaunted, he persevered. Patiently going over difficult entries, arpeggios and sequences, which with personal one-on-one input, I was starting to grasp. I’m sure there were times when the will to live deserted him, but he never let it show. Thus, my confidence grew and the week before the performance, I was up for it. Self-belief was great, so bring it on. No worries! Hmm.

The day of the performance, I was a mess. I’d gone the way of all great artistes (I know, I know, just indulge me!) who suffer first night nerves. This however, was not a first night. It was a once in a lifetime shot at the tail. By way of being supportive in a totally naff sort of way, a friend - no names, no pack drill - flippantly opined that Nicholas was easy, given Britten had written it for fun, for a girls school or something. So what was my problem – it’s fun, it’s easy. (Note to self : I still have to throw Gary Freer off something very high...)

Aided by my wife Karen and Imodium, I arrived at St Peter’s on said night. In the St James’ Room, I paced to and fro as the items prior to St Nicholas rang out to a packed church.

And now the moment.

Kendrick came in to collect me and introduce me to the (lions) audience. I don’t know if he sensed or smelt my fear, unease and anxiety. But, just before we walked into the church, there was a pause and we stood motionless. I could hear my heart thumping. He broke the piercing silence by turning to me and smiling said - “So let’s go and sing a little Britten”.
A moments silence whilst you digest that.
“So let’s go and sing a little Britten”.
I was on the verge of a coronary and the worst thing he could have said was “Don’t worry”, “It’ll be fine”, “Break a leg”, “Good Luck”, or the worst of all - “Let’s give it our best shot”.

Whilst all these sentiments have their place, am I alone in thinking they are designed to convince ourselves that the pending disaster won't - but usually does - happen? Well maybe I am wrong. Actually, I don’t give a tinker's. All I know is his understated words, whilst conveying his calm, transmitted a belief and assurance in myself and the ensemble, that was balm to my condition and very infectious. Pressing the right buttons at the right time - that’s talent! The rest is history. The performance was a huge triumph and personally speaking, it remains the highlight of any solo work I’ve undertaken. The Evening Post loved it (I have a few copies - 2000 - left, should anyone desire one) and I received a standing ovation from my Mum, who didn’t like Britten but loved me in it!

In the years I sang for Kendrick there had been a full gamut of emotions. Can’t deny the occasional thought of “Kendrick, I could hit you” (small H given organists are a breed apart. They all shout and have to be a tad bonkers to do the job - I think). However, if ever a man had the ability to create bricks from straw, KJP had it in spades. God bless him for the moments that he raised us above ourselves. Small time maybe, but enormous for us.

Foot Note : Exactly one year on to the day and minute that one stood to sing the Nicholas Cantata, I switched on Radio 3 and guess what they were playing? You’ve got it - Handel in the Strand!

Andrew Davys

From June Lord & Sheila George

After leaving the St Peter's Church Choir and the Harmonic Choir due to pressures of family life, we were delighted when Kendrick Partington formed the St Peter's Singers and asked us to join. The 7.30pm start was a much more convenient time than the 6.30pm time for the Harmonic.

Among those who joined were some members of the church choir, ex members like ourselves and friends. People came and went as some moved away or came into the area. It was a happy group and we were privileged to experience Kendrick's teaching at first hand. There were so many concerts, all very enjoyable and many charities benefited from funds raised such as The Camphill Village Trust, Family First and the NSPCC, to name a few.

Concerts were very popular, enhanced by Kendrick's imaginative choice of programmes. The Singers once joined with The Nottingham Boys High School Concert at the Albert Hall in a memorable performance of Britten's St Nicholas. A visit to Skylarks was a joyous and enjoyable occasion for all concerned. Usually however concerts were held at St Peter's. They were a delightful mix of sacred and secular and came in two halves with an interval for refreshments. One half was a performance of a main work, for example Faure's Requiem or Puccini’s Messa de Gloria. The other half consisted of Madrigals, Part Songs and Folk Songs; an enjoyable eclectic mix. Many concerts were accompanied by local orchestral players and guest pianists. There were also many guest soloist singers.

We shall always be grateful to Kendrick for all the music making with the St Peter's Singers; for the joy, the happiness and the friendships. It will always be a very special time in our lives. We feel honoured to have experienced his amazing professionalism and his infectious enthusiasm for music in all its forms.

June Lord & Sheila George

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Last revised 27th December 2005