A birthday tribute by Jeremy Jackman

Did you ever wait around at the end of a King’s Singers concert to get your programme or a recording signed?  If you did that more than once or twice (up until a dozen years ago) you may very well have run into Margery Elliott – wherever you are in the world!  For Margery’s dedication to hearing the group perform all over the globe places her in a very special category of ‘fan’.  She literally went to the ends of the earth to hear the group sing.

Margery’s travelling days are done, but she is still hale and hearty and living in the town in which she was born and brought up.  Friday 26thJuly was her birthday, and Angela and I were invited to her care home in Birmingham, England to help her celebrate, since it was a very special occasion.  Margery was 100 years old to the day.

She played the flute – professionally for some years – and taught flute, recorder, violin and piano at different times.  She loves vocal music, and through her father, who was a member of a male voice quartet, she developed a passion for a cappella male voice singing. That lead her to make contact with The Comedian Harmonists, and Margery was the very original link that finally (in the 1980s) resulted in The KS espousing the spirit of that group by commissioning and performing arrangements in tribute.

Her birthday was the last hot day of July, perfect timing for a party that was largely held outdoors in the garden.  We moved to the dining room for cake and champagne, to the background CD accompaniment of youngish men (six at a time) of various different vintages singing this and that.  Eyesight and hearing are not what they were (Margery’s, not ours) and she presided over proceedings from a wheelchair, but Margery has never been one to let mildly annoying circumstances get in her way.  The rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ was not quite the smoothly harmonic 6-part version I vaguely remember from my KS days, but we were polytonaly loud in appreciation of a wonderful lady.

Jeremy Jackman


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