Lives Remembered: Enid Walker
Friday 03 April 2009
For over 60 years she was a focus of musical life in West Yorkshire, particularly as an organist in the Methodist church but also as music teacher and latterly as the honorary representative for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. In 2004, her varied contribution was recognised when she was awarded an MBE, to add to the FRCO and LRCM which already appeared after her name.
Born in 1924, in Outlane above Huddersfield, she left school at 14 to work as a "mill girl" in the then thriving textile mills of West Yorkshire. While training, she was taken to regular recitals on the organ at Huddersfield Town Hall, where among others she met Sir David Willcocks, whose advice – to play well whatever type of music the congregation asked for – she took to heart.
Her first post as organist was at Outlane; afterwards she held appointments at Linthwaite and the Huddersfield Methodist Mission. In 1973 she became the organist and choirmistress at St Andrew's Methodist Church in Halifax, a post she held until her death .
As an organist she maintained the highest standards.A dimunitive figure, always dressed in college robes, she was a model of discreet professionalism, skilfully but without ostentation matching the music to the style of the service. Out of services, she could be heard rippling through arpeggios on the pianos in the Hall to keep them in tune; or just heard, as she attended cheerfully to whatever needed doing.
Her working life spanned seven decades during which she taught generations of children the piano and organ. She was a prolific fund-raiser for local causes. As if her regular 12-hour sponsored organ recitals were not demanding enough, in her eighties she raised the bar by vowing to remain silent for the duration, delighting in everyone else's speculation as to whether she could go without talking for so long.
The world into which she was born, of working textile mills with a Methodist church in every community, has all but disappeared. But Enid carried forward many of its best qualities – industrious, considerate, self-reliant. She embraced new challenges, too. An excellent driver, she had passed the advanced driving test. And in her eightieth year, she climbed the clock tower in the Palace of Westminster (where she had also played the organ in the crypt chapel).
Many years after playing at our wedding, anniversaries were unfailingly remembered by a card, in an envelope bearing the legend, "First Class" (underlined), words which said as much about Enid as the category of postage. A memorial concert is planned in St Andrew's, with contributions from friends and former pupils, to celebrate what she gave to local musical life.
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