Saturday, August 11, 2012

A sad loss

Hugh Montgomery died last night after a battle with cancer. Our thoughts and sympathies are very much with Carol and the family.

Hugh had been associated with City of Dunedin Choir for what seems to be a lifetime, and in recent years he was the choir's Honorary Archivist. Hugh was not a singer, but he has served as chair and president, organised the front of house at concerts, and of course performed the duties of archivist. His passing is a sad loss for the choir and his beloved family.

The funeral is on Thursday 15 August, 10:30 am, at Hope and Sons. Rest in peace, Hugh.

The following tribute was offered by Peter Adams:

It is with great sadness that the choir records the passing of Hugh Montgomery and acknowledges his outstanding service to the choir over many years.

Hugh did the choir a great turn by not becoming a singing member (Graham Shirley is adamant Hugh was no singer at all!); instead, he supported his wife Carol’s membership of the choir by doing what he was best at – helping with the administration and smooth running of the choir. Hugh was either chairman or president, and was both for seventeen years, resigning only in 2007 after nearly thirty years’ service – a remarkable contribution.

I was the third or fourth conductor Hugh worked with: he began his association with the choir when Peter Warwick was conducting and Raymond White and Roy Tankersley followed before me. I shall be forever grateful to Hugh for supporting me as a young and very green choral conductor – my entire experience had been in orchestral and instrumental music – Hugh was patient with my mad enthusiasms and supportive of my fledgling endeavours as music director.

During my ten years with the choir, I saw Hugh oversee the change of name from Schola Cantorum of Dunedin to the City of Dunedin Choir and he also organised and led a very busy and successful 125th anniversary year in 1988.

Hugh’s chairmanship of the committee over many years was exemplary – often he had strong personalities (mostly women with plenty to say!) to deal with: he was always patient, courteous and respectful – I never saw Hugh even mildly irritated with other committee members. Eventually he would pull everybody around to a consensus position – even when the topic was as difficult and as serious as the colour, design and material for the women’s uniform (how many hours did we spend on that topic?!).

Hugh was also the choir’s archivist – he had programmes and newspaper cuttings going back years, and he could tell many fascinating stories from the choir’s past. I remember his enthusiasm for Coleridge- Taylor’s Hiawatha and his wish that the choir revisit this work again – how sad that he will not hear the 2013 performance.

Hugh’s vast and valued service to the choir is all the more impressive when you consider how busy he was in other spheres: a successful veterinary researcher, a husband to Carol and father of four, a busy mem- Rehearsal with John Drummond ber of his masonic lodge, a historian, a camera lover, collector and camera club member, and his musical administrative skills also saw him serve on the local committee of Chamber Music New Zealand and organise (with Graham Shirley) the school’s chamber music contest for quite a few years.

My lasting image is of Hugh in his large velvet bowtie, ice cream container in hand, cheerfully leading the front-of-house and box office at many a Town Hall concert over the years. I shall remember a friendly, enthusiastic gentleman whose support I greatly appreciated. I am sure I speak on behalf of all past and present members of the City of Dunedin Choir in extending to Carol our sincere sympathies and our great respect and regard for Hugh.

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