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Man of the Month: Philip Baxter
It was the day before our concert at Poulton Le Fylde
when the news came through.
Our Musical Director, Thom Meredith
, had stepped into the road in Dewsbury and had had a painful encounter with an oncoming car, striking him in the midriff. Battered and shaken he had been admitted overnight to hospital for observation. The word came through: he’s OK, nothing broken but bruised and shocked, but he would be in no state to conduct Saturday’s concert.
There was a hasty debate and then our Man of the Month, Philip Baxter
, agreed he would step into the role at just a day’s notice.
Philip is our rehearsal pianist, assisting Keith Swallow.
Whenever Thom is delayed for rehearsals, Philip will usually step in to lead the singing - but conducting a full performance is something else again!
As we formed up in Poulton le Fylde at Saturday tea-time for a pre-performance run-through, you could see that Philip was aware of the magnitude of the task he was facing. He urged us to remember the good advice Thom had been drilling into us all summer. “I’ll do my best”, he said, “But I might not be able to give you as strong a lead as Thom gives us, nor mime the words as clearly as Thom somehow manages to do. But concentrate hard and it’ll be fine.”
And so it proved: an excellent concert in a venue we love to sing in (this was our 5th concert in Poulton) and with an audience that was clearly on our side. Choir Chairman, Peter Denby
, took on Thom’s compere role and won the audience
New solo act, Simon Durrans
, got them singing along with his version of ‘Bye-bye, Miss American Pie’
, the inimitable, Raymond Ellis
, did his engaging comedy stuff, including the ever-popular Sterndale Bennett suite of short comic songs. Keith Swallow
amazed us all with his solo piano spot and – another man stepping into the breach, David Hirst
, sang a couple of baritone solos in the slot, originally allocated in the programme to Thom himself. And, in between, performances of varied groups of songs from the Choir, led with increasing confidence by Philip.
As the Choir spread round the auditorium for our moving final number, ‘The Irish Blessing’, both Choir and audience knew that they had enjoyed a night to remember.
Readers will be glad to know that a week later, the Choir performed a very similar concert - this time a charity event at Lindley Methodists
in aid of ‘Action for Children
’ and that this time Thom was back on great form. If his bruises were troubling him, he wasn’t showing it . But he did take opportunities to acknowledge – with the Choir’s full endorsement – our warmest thanks to Man of the Hour, Philip Baxter.
Incidentally this is not the first time Philip has stepped in heroically.
Back in 2011 when the Choir went to the Eskdale Music Festival in Whitby, Philip again took over the baton, in Thom’s sudden absence due to illness,
He conducted the choir in competition. Our repertoire included, for the first time, that Simon & Garfunkel song, 'Trouble over Bridgewater'.
We won in every class we competed in.