For Paul

I went to Christchurch Boys’ High School with Paul Dunlop (1943-22 February, 2011). While our paths diverged at university – after physics, he worked as an optician in the Christchurch family firm – we kept in touch. He was one of three in Christchurch’s Methodist Durham St Church rescuing a pipe organ (they were his hobby) who was killed in the Christchurch Earthquake. This is based on a note I wrote immediately after a memorial concert for the three on 4 March, 2011.

Keywords: Literature and Culture; Miscellaneous;

This evening I attended a memorial service organ concert for the three staff of the South Island Organ Co who died at the Durham St Methodist Church. One was Paul.

The venue was the St Peters Church in Willis St, Wellington, chosen because it just has had its organ restored by the company. St Peters is a gothic revival church built in heart kauri. Its beautifully done, with the wood imitating the stone features you would expect, but giving its own shine.

(The Christ Church Cathedral was to have been done in wood, but they found the stone. Other churches followed the style, including the Durham Street one.)

I’d have said there were up to 250 people there – allowing for comings and goings. Quite extraordinary really, because 5.30 on a Friday is a dreadful time with people hurrying off for the weekend, and traffic jams everywhere.

I hardly knew anyone and there was no talk; just four people playing the organ. There were candles up front to light between pieces. The concert finished in just over an hour, with the organists each lighting a candle to show the concert had ended.

The church faces east-west. Some times the sun broke through the cloud eerily lighting up the congregation, the glow taking it out of the gloom. Three times I think; once for each person?

I did not know the works that were played, but recognised the Bach – glad that dear old JS was there. Also works by Lilburn, Howells, du Bois and Franck. In truth I dont know much about organs although I understand each has a personality.

As we sat there in silent contemplation, I wonder about St Peter’s one’s. The music started off in the higher registers, and then tended to move down. It led me to think about singing at School – how we started off as trebles and then moved to the basses. It was integral to the school as a community.

I remembered some favourite lines which we sung. Only years later I learned came from Milton’s Il Penseroso:

There let the pealing organ blow
To the full voiced choir below

It was strong and complicated to sing, as we changed registers (more difficult when your voice was breaking) – and true, for it goes on

In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.

And I thought of the hopes and dreams and ambitions of schoolboys, and how life is something which  happens while you are making other plans. But even if those plans never come to anything, how we did much better than our school masters would have ever thought – in our families, in our work and in our community activities. And I thought about Paul.