An unusual and moving event took place at the Reading Concert Hall on Saturday to celebrate the musical life of a remarkable man, Gwyn Arch.

Gwyn, who died aged 90 last year, was a major contributor to the musical life of the Thames Valley and, in particular, choral singing.

Among other things, he created and directed five local choirs.

Gwyn had a gift for communication and was passionately involved in encouraging and inspiring young people through song.

He was also a formidable jazz pianist and prolific arranger of music for choirs of all genres.

Its ability to inspire loyalty in its singers was reflected in the enthusiastic response from former choir members to return for this celebratory concert – some had not sung together for 30 years.

As Sharon, a music student at Gwyn’s in the 1970s, who sang at the concert, said: “He instilled confidence not only in his music students, but in all the students who took the musical component of their teaching course with him.

“His enthusiasm for music – and especially for singing – led us to join choirs, lead choirs, create choirs and spread the joy of singing throughout the country: a legacy that will last a long time.”

In this celebratory concert, three of Gwyn’s still performing choirs participated along with members of two former choirs, a children’s choir and a number of friends and family members.

The 300 singers performed some of Gwyn’s favorite choral music.

The tone of the evening was set by a very enthusiastic and lively performance by Jazz Creation, composed by Gwyn with lyrics by Pat Rooke, by the Taplow Children’s Choir conducted by Lucy Joy Morris. Next, the South Chiltern Choral Society, conducted by Paul Burke, gave well-balanced renditions of two of Gwyn’s favorite pieces.

After a humorous interlude with Simon Mayor and Hilary James, the Central Berkshire Girls’ Choir, conducted by Aneesa Chaudhry, performed further arrangements by Gwyn, including the haunting ballad Olive Tree.

The first half ended with a heartwarming solo of spirituality Sweet little jesus boy by Shena Winchester and a powerful performance by former members of the Bulmershe Girls’ Choir with the Central Berkshire Girls’ Choir.

The second half began with pieces from two other Gwyn choirs, Parenthesis, conducted by Valerie Hoppé, and the Reading Male Voice Choir, conducted by Clive Waterman, which were enthusiastically received.

Then there was some truly impressive piano playing by David Arch, Gwyn’s son, and soulful performances by his long-time friends, David Jones, who introduced Gwyn to jazz at Cambridge, trumpet and Quentin Bryar at the clarinet skilfully accompanied by Trevor Barry. on bass, Brett
Morgan on drums and Alan
Grahame on percussion.

All the choirs came together, under the direction of Clive Waterman, for four catchy pieces. The performance of Thanks for the musicwith lyrics adapted to reflect Gwyn’s life by Allen Appleby, which concluded a truly memorable evening and a fitting celebration of a remarkable life in music.

Gwyn Arch left a legacy as a composer, arranger, bandleader and enthusiast who inspired young people from all walks of life to love singing together.

To continue this legacy, the Gwyn Arch Foundation was established to support the development and performance of choral music by and for young people in the Thames Valley.

He will invite schools, community groups, choirs and music centers to say what they need to help them progress. This could be a workshop with an experienced conductor, the cost of renting a hall, help to buy a set of sheet music, funds to commission a new work, or help transport to go to a festival or competition.

For more information, email [email protected] or sign up at

Paul Whitehead


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