Eulogy
Home Celebration event Eulogy Obituary St Michael's, Cornhill Recitals Lake District Teaching Bevington Organ Compositions Recordings Links

 

The following words were read at David Sanger’s funeral by Rev Margaret Goddard, a member of the Church of England Parish of Cockermouth Area Team.

The purpose of the thoughts that we’ve put together about David is not to read out his CV or to celebrate his professional life; it’s to give thanks for his life as we know him in Embleton and as his family remember him when they were staying at the chapel.

When you talk to people about David, and his qualities, there are several adjectives that you keep hearing: they are that he was gentle, kind, humble, modest, unassuming.

In spite of him becoming one of the world’s most accomplished organists, David remained very modest. His fame didn’t seem to have affected him. Although, when he saw a picture of himself printed on a tea towel in Sweden, he said, ‘That’s it, I’m officially famous, I’m on a tea towel’. And his friends did know how excited he was when, in 2008, he was made President of the Royal College of Organists.

Prior to David moving permanently into the Old Wesleyan Chapel he used to camp out in the Sunday School room of the Chapel. At that time his late parents were already living nearby. When David finally left Catford in 1989 many friends came to say goodbye to him; some of the gifts he was given at that time can still be seen around the Chapel.

It was in 1987 that David was able to acquire the Bevington Organ which is installed in the Chapel. The church in Bexleyheath where it was in use was to be closed and so the organ ended up in Embleton. When it arrived in the furniture van, in pieces of course, there were many locals on hand to help with the unloading. The restoration and re-erection of the organ in the Chapel gave David great pleasure.

On their visits to the Chapel, David’s nieces Hannah and Stephanie remember sleeping in the attic above the chapel listening to organ practice late at night and early in the morning. Stephanie particularly loved the quirky nature of David’s chapel, with its attics and shower rooms in odd places.

David was willing to break the rule of a lifetime never to play an electronic organ, when he played for Hannah and Paul’s wedding in 1998. And some of us here know that he broke his rule again in 2006, when he played for the wedding of Ellen Boardman, a friend and neighbour. That was in St. Cuthbert’s Church in Embleton; the organ must have wondered what was happening to it.

Everything that David did had to be fitted in round his organ music life. But he did still manage to pursue several hobbies. His busy schedule might mean he would miss 3 or 4 weeks of the badminton group, but that made him no less enthusiastic, and, in any case, he liked to keep fit. David has been a part of that group more or less since he came up here. The group sometimes had a meal together, some of them hosted by David.

In the early days of him being in Embleton, David frequented the old Blue Bell pub. At the end of the evening he would call in there for a drink. That’s what he did on his first New Year he was at the Chapel. On leaving the pub, at a respectable time for New Year, he said, ‘You must all come and visit me in the Chapel some time’. So fuelled with alcohol, some of his companions took him at his word. And at 3 o’clock that same morning they knocked on the Chapel door. David came down stairs, in his dressing gown, invited them all in, made them coffee, and was the perfect host. He hadn’t, though, expected his invitation be taken up so soon.

Since the closure of the Blue Bell David has socialised in the Wheatsheaf, sometimes eating there.

On one occasion David sent to some close friends a formal dinner invitation for a special meal. He had the 3-course meal all very carefully planned; when the guests arrived they saw notes dotted around the kitchen giving times for when he should put the potatoes on, and the parsnips on etc. But he had forgotten that you needed hot oil to roast the parsnips. That all got sorted out though. At the end of the evening he asked his guests to tell him honestly how the meal had gone. They said it was really lovely, it was ‘spot on’. ‘Oh good’, he said, ‘my real guests are coming next week’. Again he had been the perfect host.

David appreciated good food and wine – he particularly enjoyed his meals at the Quince and Medlar in Cockermouth. David had a wide spectrum of interests, and that, coupled with his sense of humour and enjoyment of life, made him fun to be with and a thoroughly lovely companion.

Another of David’s interests was gardening. He deliberately kept some of his garden as a conservation area. And in line with his concern for the environment he had solar panels installed. When he was first considering this he asked his immediate neighbours if they would mind. Would it spoil their outlook in any way? David was someone who didn’t want to cause anyone any inconvenience.

As well as recitals, David’s musical life involved teaching, the writing of tutors, advising on the repair/building of organs, and composition. On one occasion he accepted a commission to write a piece of music for the installation of a bishop or archbishop. Sitting on the top of Blencathra with his friends, eating their packed lunches, and enjoying the scenery, David suddenly said, ‘That’s it, I’ve got the ending to it’.

David enjoyed walking. And it seems that it wasn’t separate from his music. Hannah remembers following David on a walk up Lord’s Seat on a snowy day in the early 1980s; as she walked in his footprints, David sang Good King Wenceslas!

David was also willing to walk to help raise money. On one occasion he began the 18-mile sponsored walk for the Volunteer Youth Project. Another commitment meant he couldn’t do all of it, but he determined to join in again for the end of it

David had an amazing life to keep on top of; there were tickets and foreign currency, etc., as well as the music to plan. He was very organised for that, having checklists; different ones depending on where he was travelling to. In the next month or two that would have been to France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, U.S.A. and Jamaica, not to mention eight cities in this country.

The technology of recent years must have been hugely beneficial to him in the making of his arrangements. It also brought blessing to him. David he has enjoyed video chats with Hannah’s 3-year-old daughter Isabel, across the internet: she called him Great-Uncle-David-on-the-computer! David had a real knack for choosing presents for her.

David’s busy life didn’t stop him from being generous with his time. He always had time for those who were interested in the organ, and would play for them. He had a great willingness to share his gifts and talent.

He has being doing that for at least the last 20 years through the annual Christmas Carol Concert. This began with a group of carol singers from St. Cuthbert’s Church knocking on his door. They were invited in, in order to be accompanied by the organ. Then he suggested that in future they might make an evening of it. And that’s what has continued to happen. The evening has raised money for the Church and for a charity of David’s choice. This last year that was for those in Cockermouth whose homes had been flooded. Singing carols to David’s accompaniment, and listening to him performing Christmas music, has been a real delight for us who are in the community.

We began this tribute to David by listing some of his qualities. We’re going to bring it to a close in a similar way. ‘You never heard David say a bad word about anyone.’ And, ‘there was no occasion when you didn’t see him smiling’. David was someone whose face lit up when you met him. And even though you didn’t know him very well he made you feel that you were his friend. That’s a special gift. As well as remembering him for his international reputation on the organ, we will remember his for his personal friendship.