Gill Garside – Musical Director
I gained a BA (Hons) in music at the University of East Anglia and studied conducting with the late Professor Peter Aston. Much of my time at university was spent singing in various sized ensembles besides studying piano and oboe. I have been Musical Director of the Edmund Octet since 2009. Under my direction, the Octet has broadened its repertoire, increased its size, and taken on a very busy concert schedule. As well as running the Octet I am M.D. of the Aquarius Singers, a ladies’ choir I formed in 1999. I have also trained the chorus for Suffolk Opera and have been one of the Music Directors of the Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society as well as M.D. at the Quay Theatre, Sudbury. Besides all this, I am busy teaching singing and piano to a number of students, most of whom are adults.
Nick Gane – First Bass
I was a church choir boy in Bristol but then sport took over! Finally, physically I was unable to compete any more and was persuaded to join St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir in 2000, which turned out to be a brilliant move! Since then, I’ve also performed in 12 Bury Operatic productions at the Theatre Royal and was invited to be a founder member of the Edmund Octet in 2008. A lot of singing, rehearsals, concerts, events, musicals, tours but above all else, a lot of fun!
Bob Emery – First Bass
From singing in the school choir in 1950s until joining a small chamber choir when in my fifties I had forgotten the delights of singing. I then joined the Bury Bach choir where I have been singing for over thirty years. A chance to join the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir was not to be missed and an invitation to join the Octet put the icing on the cake.
John Meers – Second Bass
At school, I sang in the choir and had a couple of roles with the local ‘Am Dram’ and indeed small parts in rep, before going to University. Then work schedules meant little singing until retirement when I did much choral work with Cambridge Philharmonic and Cantus Singers. On moving near to Bury St Edmunds I joined the Male Voice Choir from where the MD asked me to sing the dastardly Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd and since then I have sung many operatic and other roles including Coline in Boheme and Sarastro in Magic Flute. I now have lessons with Steven Varcoe. I was one of the founder members of the Edmund Octet and recently have been invited to sing solo roles in oratorio as well.
Ian Robertson – Second Bass
As a choir boy in our local Church, (Epsom Downs) I progressed to head choir boy often singing solos at Church Festivals. The BBC recorded the choir singing “Black and White Fantasy” for which I sang the verses solo. I also sang in my school choir until my voice ‘slid’ down the ranges.
Apart from Scout Gang Shows, I sang no more until persuaded to join SEMVC by a fellow bass in 1993. When The Edmund Octet’s the late Richard Spaul could no longer sing, I replaced him in the bass section.
Ivor Thulborn – Second Bass
My singing career started when my piano teacher in Cambridge found out that I was much better at singing than I was playing the piano! Having joined Great St Mary’s choir its choirmaster, the amazing, one-armed Dr. Fox, suggested I audition for the choir of Ely Cathedral and I was successful. I didn’t realise at the time how valuable being taught how to sing would become. I sang in a variety of choirs whilst at school but rugby took over at university. Whilst teaching in Liverpool I became a founder member of the St Agnes Singers. Moving to Norfolk in the 1970s my singing for many years was restricted to pantos but in 1988 I became a founder member of the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir. In 2012 I was invited to join the Edmund Octet and so here I am!
Simon Loughe – Top Tenor
Having not sung a note in anger since leaving primary school, (I was told I ‘couldn’t sing’ by my secondary school), it took 42 years and a chance to sing in a golf club one-off gig at the Xmas draw to get me singing properly. A chance meeting with a male voice choir member the following month led to me joining up, and seeking a singing lesson there (with Gill) led to me finding the Octet, where a top tenor vacancy had arisen. As the ‘baby’ of the Octet, I still have much to learn, but I am enjoying every minute of it. If you had told me 4 years ago, I would be singing in public on a regular basis, I would have questioned your sanity. It has radically altered my outlook on so much, and I can’t recommend singing highly enough!
Marcel Rousseau – Top Tenor
My musical life began, aged 8, when I was enrolled into the Massey School of Music in Newcastle-on-Tyne to study piano and where I began vocal lessons. Classical music was what I studied but my interest in swing and jazz had been aroused around the refectory piano at Kings College in Newcastle. I continued playing and singing whilst doing my National Service in the RAF and it was there I started making ‘connections’ which have enabled me to stage many successful Celebrity Charity Concerts. Ronnie Aldridge of the RAF Squadronaires, Harry Lewis and Vera Lynn, Tony Hatch and Jacqui Trent of Pye Records, Pat Campbell of Decca, Norrie Paramor, and George Martin at EMI are amongst those who have helped me along my very enjoyable musical journey. I have sung with a number of male voice choirs – Felling, Colne Valley, Wigston, Skelmanthorpe to name but a few. In 2003 I joined St Edmundsbury MVC and in 2007 formed the Edmund Octet. In 2008 I was delighted to be able to ask the very talented Gill Garside to become our Musical Director under whose tutelage and skill we have made great musical progress.
Ed Wilson – Top Tenor
It was in a damning school report when I was six that the only encouraging comment was for music where the teacher stated… “He has the voice of an angel”. Admittedly that teacher was a tone-deaf elderly Belgian nun; not the one who went on to receive worldwide acclaim as the Singing Nun charting with “Dominique”! As a teenager throughout the marvellous 1960s I sang all the popular hit songs of the day accompanied by my friends on guitar and drums but, apart from going to the loudest gigs during my student years (Deep Purple, Cream, Jimi Hendrix etc), I did not take up singing seriously until I was 39 when as a family man living in Norton I got together with other friends in the village to form a barbershop quartet. The tenor, Ken Hankard had just joined the recently formed St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir and badgered me for over a year to come and join them. Eventually he took me to a rehearsal and that was the beginning of just over 25 years of singing in the top tenor section, although bald as a coot I recall the “hair” on the back of my head rising when singing the three “Amens” at the end of the Welsh hymn, “Gwahoddiad” for the first time; and I was hooked! An invitation to fill a top tenor vacancy in the Edmund Octet came in 2012 which I was delighted to accept.
Ed Bacon – Second Tenor
My first public singing was at the age of eleven when I won the Junior Arts Festival Soprano Solo at Stowmarket Grammar School. I sang in the school choirs and in local church choirs until leaving school. I have always played the piano for pleasure. I then had a long career in industry with no participation in music or theatrical activities. Shortly before my retirement in 2008, I was invited to join the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir by a member who heard me singing in our local church. I was then invited to become a founding member of the Edmund Octet for which I have sung many solos, mainly ballads and show songs. I have also compered for the Octet’s concerts and written and performed sketches for cabaret evenings with the SEMVC . For the past nine years, I have been a member of the Barton Players where I have acted, sung and even danced in many musical productions and annual pantomimes often in a principal role. All this activity has contributed to a very happy and fulfilling retirement and I have made many good friends along the way.
Keith Skinner – Second Tenor
I first started singing age 9 with Luton St Mary Parish Church Choir after a dalliance with the violin. The highlight was representing the choir at the Festival of Britain concert in the Royal Albert Hall June 1951 in front of Royalty. I also sang with a group called The Wenlock Singers similar to the octet singing Madrigals and other genres. My singing career started again in 1982 when I joined the Thurrock Male Voice Choir as a 2nd tenor but after 10 months I was promoted to work in BSE. Again After several years following a chance meeting I discovered the SEMVC and joined June 91, as a 1st tenor. Approximately 2007, I was invited to join the Octet where I have enjoyed the singing and social life to date.
Michael Warner – Second Tenor
Being banned from playing sport (not by misdemeanour, but by hip problems), I was ‘volunteered’ into the school Chapel Choir and singing has formed an ongoing hobby ever since. Starting working life in London and living in a YMCA, I joined their small choir. Moving to Cape Town, I sang at the City Hall in several choral oratorios. On my return to the UK, I became part of the Phoenix Singers in Framlingham under the firm baton of Philip Reid. Hips fixed at last, I joined the Choir at St Michaels Church, standing next to a frequently naughty 6 year old, Ed Sheeran; he has done quite well since. After we moved to the Newmarket area, the St Edmundsbury MVC performed in our local church, inspiring me to become a member, which period included a life-changing visit to sing under the Menin Gate in Ypres. I also participated in three Gilbert & Sullivan productions at Saxham. I was invited to join the Edmund Octet as the third 2nd tenor in 2013, and I am greatly enjoying the high-performance levels under Gill Garside, as well as entertaining and helping to raise funds for a variety of good causes.
Sylvia Wilson – ‘Page Turner’
I’ve always yearned to have a double-barrelled name and joining the Octet has enabled me to achieve this ambition.
I’m frequently asked if I can read music. Of course, I can but who needs to when there are words to follow?
Seriously, I was introduced to music as a young child with my piano teacher promising to put me in for grade 1 when she felt I was ready. I think she must have forgotten to post the application.
However, my musical career was not blighted by a lack of formal qualifications and I eventually found myself delivering a live performance to a captivated audience every Monday to Friday mornings during term times. My audience was very attentive and enthusiastic, encouraged by the game we always played afterward of ‘guess what hymn that was? ‘
It’s a great honour to work with such a talent as Gill who can play the music blindfolded and with one hand tied behind her back.
She doesn’t need me at all but I think she likes the reassurance that I’m there ‘just in case’ the music blows away or she needs an extra handbag to stop the sustain pedal going walkabout or she needs a tissue or other unforeseen eventualities that have yet to happen.
2018 Nils Carter de Jong