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More from a Country Cathedral Organist (Paperback)

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BiographyBiography: generalAutobiography: general Publisher: David Gedge Publication Date: 12/03/2008 ISBN-13: 9780955859601  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Customer Reviews

David Gedge has led an interesting, if charmed life as organist and choir master at Brecon Cathedral and Head of music at Builth Wells High School. A pied piper of a man, gathering children and young people with an ear for music to follow him. However, the style of his writing I found tedious in the extreme, because there is so little light and shade. These are the disjointed ramblings of a man who does not take criticism and therefore self publishes to avoid the editing process. A pity, because an editor might have explained that he comes over as petty and small minded in recounting quite so many quibbles with this person or that. Or that describing the times and places he or his choir boys had stopped for a pee en route to wherever, might be considered a little dull to the average reader. But persevere with the two books and you discover that David Gedge actually lacks any real emotion. How anyone could, in the same paragraph where they describe their only daughter as having been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, finish that same paragraph with the phrase “It was indeed a golden age” just beggars belief. Gedge is fond of quoting any letters praising him, relentlessly so. He proudly quotes the blog of Kenneth Woods, who wrote of him in 2006, “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.” In some cases that may indeed have been true; some could have been quite vulnerable, and if so, a place of safety would have been paramount. Yet from this memoir, it is clear that Gedge doesn’t appear to understand his obligations to them or see any virtue in the protection of children generally. In fact he seems to resent it. In 1999 he remembers “Other problems were arising at the Cathedral. Dean Geraint was still anxious to persuade people to sit in at the youngsters’ choir practices so as to comply with an EEC ruling on the supervision of young people.” There is no love lost between Dean Geraint and David Gedge. Perhaps because Dean Geraint could, and often did, put Gedge in his place. Or perhaps because Dean Geraint did not share David Gedge’s and his lay clerks’ obsession with alcohol, which is made abundantly clear in this book. Gedge recalls “an unhappy incident in the history of the diocese”, when a clergyman friend, who was about to be made a Canon, was arrested for a number of serious sex offences against boys. Perhaps not unusually in the church, Gedge does not name his friend and colleague, even though the man had no legal right to anonymity. (In 1994 Rev Stephen Brookes was convicted of nineteen sex offences against eight children and sentenced to 4 years in prison.) But it is Gedge’s comments on the outcome of the trial that seem so bizarre. He says “this was exceedingly tragic, because he was undeniably a priest with both vision and charisma, who could get things done; what was so sad was that he had been let down by an uncontrollable personal weakness.” He makes absolutely no mention of the children who had been abused, the ordeals they had suffered, the affect on their lives and those of their families. Yet he continues to extol the virtues of an ex-clergyman and registered sex offender. So it may not come as too much of a shock to learn that, at the time of writing, David Gedge has himself come under police investigation both in the UK and Ireland, for serious sex offences against a cathedral chorister, and that (to quote a review I read) the “brilliant accounts of colourful choir tours abroad” could have been a lot more colourful than Gedge actually painted them. The phrase “selective memory” springs to mind, as he has left out significant episodes of his life as a plain old “Country Cathedral Organist”. And although there are occasions he may not choose to remember, there are others who will never quite be able to forget. I am awarding David Gedge’s two volume autobiography just one star for readability, style and content. However, I sincerely hope he finds himself with enough time on his hands to write a third.

- 04/06/2012
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