My Link to Thiman
by Guy Turner, archivist of the Collection
In the early seventies, while I was in the sixth form, I was a member of the choir of St Peter’s Grange Park, the church which you could see from our front door, and where I used to practise the organ. (St Peter’s had the distinction of being the only church to be consecrated during World War II.) I later became organist and choirmaster there during my gap year.
For a small church it had a thriving choir, and eight of the choir members were also members of the Elysian Concert Society Choir, which was Eric Thiman’s choir, drawing people from all around North London. Gerald Barnes, the key source of the Collection’s material, was the accompanist. I joined the Elysians along with the other St Peter’s people, singing in such works as the The Kingdom, The Creation, Stanford's Stabat Mater (good piece!), and some Christmas concerts including several of Thiman’s own pieces. Some of the concerts took place in the City Temple, where Thiman was still the organist.
In the same period, St Peter’s choir used to do an annual joint work with the choir of the local Methodist Church (‘The Church in the Orchard’), and one year we did Thiman’s The Last Supper – which in those days was an occasional alternative to The Crucifixion.
Thiman, by then already in his seventies, was a very gentle and unassuming man, with a quiet authority. The Elysians enjoyed singing under him and performances were of high quality. I continued to sing with Elysians outside of term time, when I was at Cambridge. Then in 1975 we heard that Thiman had died. Gerald Barnes took over the conducting of the concert that Thiman had already started rehearsing, and that became his Memorial Concert – appropriately enough the Mozart Requiem and Thiman’s own Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres. I sang in the concert, and continued to sing in Elysians under Gerald until I moved away on graduation.
It was strange to hear, nearly forty years after Thiman died, that his archive was to be housed at Southwell Minster, where by that time I was working. I was delighted to take on the job of archivist.
Guy Turner, the Collection's archivist, has given talks to groups in Lincoln, Notts and Cambridge. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to book a talk.