Thoughts for a friend

Blogs are a somewhat clumsy place to talk about things that really matter, but I want to go on record as wishing a speedy recovery to one of my favorite colleagues, David Gedge, who collapsed tonight during a performance of The Creation in Brecon. I know an awful lot of conductors, famous and not, bad and good, but David is someone whose human qualities represent the best of what a conductor can be.

David has been the conductor of the Gwent Chamber Orchestra and organist at the Brecon Cathedral for many years, and my wife has been a regular collaborator with him since her first year at music college. David’s inspirational leadership and warm humanity has touched the lives of countless choristers during his tenure. He does more than conduct music- time and again he has been a needed mentor or friend to someone for whom the Brecon Cathedral Choir was an all-important refuge.  Music can and does change lives, and David’s work has changed and bettered the lives of many, many people. He has built his choir not from the children of the great and the good, but with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, broken homes and profoundly challenging circumstances.  Lest I make him out to be a boring, pious do-gooder, I also want to point out that he’s a great guy to go for a beer with- funny, laid-back and wise.

His son was singing in tonight’s concert, and his wife (who has been the assistant organist at the Cathedral all these years) was also there. I can’t begin to imagine how they are feeling tonight. Our thoughts are with them and David, as we hope for a full and speedy recovery.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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9 comments on “Thoughts for a friend”

  1. Harriet Gedge

    I just happened to google my father (David Gedge) and came across your rather touching note about him posted the day he so spectacularly bought his performance of Haydn’s Creation to an abrupt end. I was also there (you missed me out !) I was singing soprano in the choir and indeed was first to get to him after his collapse. At first when the the orchestra and choir had ground to a halt I thought the sopranos had done something awful again (he loves to shout at us!) and that he was going to restart the final chorus. Then I realised he wasn’t on his podium and I though the silly bugger has fallen off. Then I saw John Roberts (leader of the orchestra and a very old friend of Dad’s and the family looking frantic. I then realised something was terribly wrong and threw dowm my music, leapt off the stage and ran around to him. The sight of him lying there on his left side, unable to move, will always stay with me.

    He had suffered a stroke to his left side. He is making steady progress but he has a long road ahead of him. He has the Gedge determination though and is taking his physio very seriously. I am so glad I was back from Hong Kong (where I am currrently based) and was there when it happened. He has given us all quite a scare and also himself. He is talking about now taking a daily afternoon nap and going to bed by 11pm which is unheard of for him! This is someone who no matter what time he goes to bed (not usually before 1am) always gets up at 6h15am. He has worked so hard all his life and is bone dead tired. As he lay asleep in his hospital bed the first day after his stroke, someone so aptly said that he was catching up on 40 years of sleep!

    I thank you for what you have written about my father as you have hit so many nails on the head. He has indeed helped so many people, and for many in the choir, he is quite possibly the most stable figure some of the choir boys and girls have in their lives. As one of them said, “he is like a father to me”. Everything Dad has done at the Cathedral has never been for self glory, but for other people and as he would say, The Almighty. He has, as you said, touched the lives of so many, and he will go on to do so. As he was wheeled out of the Cathedral that night by the ambulance men, he instructed my brother and myself to make sure the orchestra were paid, and then told my brother as he tried to get into the ambulance with him, not to go with him, but to go to the Bulls Head (out local pub where we were to have our usual after concert party) and check that the orchestra were ok…!!! So typical of my father to be thinking of others and not himself. Needless to say, very few people went to the pub as they were all in a terrible state of shock.

    I have printed out your blog to take to Dad in hospital and of course to the rest of the family. He will be very humbled to read what you have so kindly written about him. He is not a computer man, although the choir very kindly bought my parents a laptop earlier this year. I desperately want to get Dad to use it and to discover the internet, as I am convinced he will be hooked once he discovers what he can do. I am going to be sticking around for some time to help him and mum, so maybe I will manage to get him to start using the computer in time. I am sure your blog will be stuck into his scrap book, along with all the other cards he has received from so many well wishers – over 200 at the last count. He has been thrilled to receive all these cards and I am sure it has helped in his recovery. People really have been so kind.

    We hope he will be able to come home in the next 2-3 weeks. Thank you again for your kind words and so true words about him.

    His daughter, Harriet

  2. Kenneth Woods

    Thanks so much for getting in touch. I’m delighted to hear David is improving, but I know it’s tough going for now. Please do give him our love and sincere wishes for a full and complete recovery, and remind him to take it a little easier when he’s well.


  3. Kenneth Woods

    Just an update-

    David is gradually getting some movement back on his left side, and is planning a concert on Oct 21st with the Gwent Chamber Orchestra.

    Will continue to offer updates whenever I can.


  4. David Patrick

    I was devastated to read today (19th. October) of David’s illness and wish him the speediest of recoveries and good luck for the concert on Saturday 21st. October. It is very many years since he and I met but I always remember him and Hazel with much affection.


  5. John and Maggie Webber

    David is one of the best in the world of music. Always thinking of those less well off than others – a very caring man. Whenever we have been with him his sense of humour shines forth. Last time we were in Brecon, he gave us baked beans on toast for lunch – the best baked beans on toast ever! John has two or three times brought his church choirs to Brecon, and a great time was had by all with David giving great support. Thank you, David, and get well soon.

    John and Maggie Webber

  6. Garry Humphreys

    I’ve literally just finished reading David Gedge’s memoirs, and conducted a Google search prior to writing to him, and found this news. What a wonderful book – I could hardly put it down – with reference to so many places and people known to me: St Mary’s Primrose Hill (with its Dearmer connections), Southwark Cathedral (where I was a lay clerk 30 years ago), John Warrell (still as youthful as ever in his 90s!), Denys Darlow (for whom I sang at St George’s Hanover Square and in so many other situations), David Rutter (whom I came to know when I more than once visited Lincoln as a member of a group deputizing for the cathedral choir during its holidays), etc., etc., etc. So thank you to the author and all good wishes for a speedy recovery! I feel I now know Brecon so well that my next visit to Wales (I’m half Welsh but born and brought up in Nottingham) must be based there! Maybe we’ll meet … In the meantime, get well soon (if you haven’t already) and best wishes to you and your family.

    Garry Humphreys
    London N13

  7. Stephen Isgar, San Francisco

    I am delighted to hear of David’s recovery and wish him well. I along with my brother was one of many choristers touched by his abundant enthusiasm and he got me into choral music in a big way. He helped me audition for the National Youth Choir of Wales and I remember those cold mornings when he arranged to pick me up outside his house and drop me off at the High School. I guess it was his way of guaranteeing continued attendance at choir practise and to help me as much as possible with my music studies at school where I battled against an unsupportive head of music not disposed to David and his pedigree! David tried a few times to persuade my rather narrow focused parents to get me into a choir school with absolutely no success. I have come away from Brecon Cathedral with the fondest memories and have a picture of the choir (men and boys only in its heyday) taken by my Father in my office in San Francisco and home in Canada.
    David, if you read this…your influence has extended the far reaches of the west coast and thanks for the gift of music! My five year old son has a beautiful voice and if we ever return to the UK he’s going straight into a cathedral choir!

  8. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » Archivio » News from Brecon

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