Roger Gentry

A short profile

Edward v111 reigned for only eleven months following the death of George V, as he abdicated on 10th December 1936 to marry Mrs. Simpson, a divorcee. Thus the crown passed to George v1, a popular and much-loved figure, and his Coronation at Westminster Abbey on 12th May 1937 restored a desperately needed constitutional stability. It was therefore, propitious and timely for our good friend Roger Gentry to be born during this Coronation year, on 20th November 1937 at Faversham, Kent.

Roger’s family background was musical, his maternal grandfather being organist of the Methodist Church, Faversham where, in fact, all his grandparents were members. Some of our members may recall our past Association suppers at this church.

Reaching the mature age of six and three quarters, Roger wanted to join a choir and this necessitated a denominational move to the Anglican Church of St. Mary of Charity, Faversham, where in 1944, the organist was Cyril Pilcher. In retrospect, Roger feels he was perhaps rather young for such a move but, having stayed in the choir for twenty years, until he got married in 1964, it must have been the right decision. Two Sunday services and two choir practices a week were normal at the time, plus the usual weddings and funerals. Also, choristers didn’t leave because their voices broke, they went down through the parts until their voices settled; for Roger, this was the tenor part.

He started piano lessons with Mr. Pilcher, reaching grade 5 and also passing a number of theory exams. However, the organ had proved to be a fascination for Roger, and as soon as his legs were long enough, he couldn’t wait to get on the organ stool. When he was about thirteen, he had organ lessons from John Brough who, at the time, was Warden of the Royal School of Church Music at Roper House in Canterbury. When Mr Brough moved on, Roger found himself playing for services at the Faversham Almshouses’ Chapel, in place of Nellie Taylor who had "stood in" at the parish church until the next organist was appointed. It was Nellie, a past Kent County Organists’ Association member, who introduced Roger to our Association in the 1950s.

However, Roger was educated at Faversham Grammar School and, during his time there, was assigned the duty of playing the hymn for Morning Assembly, a job he shared with John Wright, who has also been one of our stalwart members for many years. Leaving school in 1953, aged sixteen, Roger worked for a few months in his father’s furniture business before starting work at Maidstone as a trainee accountant. As a trainee, Roger gained deferment from National Service, but as this came to an end in March 1961, just after he qualified, he never did do his "stint" as Roger puts it.

In April 1962, at the age of twenty-four, Roger joined Whatman, a filtration company based in Maidstone, and stayed until he retired in February 1999. However, he continued working part time for another eleven months doing two days a week, primarily on their computerized pension records, before finally retiring at the beginning of 2000.

Roger married in March 1964, he and his wife Mary having two sons, Paul and Andrew. Regrettably, his son Paul died in April 2006 having suffered for many years from Multiple Sclerosis, although Andrew and his wife Julie have two children, Fiona and Alexander.

During his over fifty years’ experience as an organist, Roger has had a number of organist appointments. He deputized at St. Mary’s, Faversham prior to getting married and, for a short period between organist’s appointments, he took on complete responsibility. He played at Linton Church, near Maidstone for about six months in 1968; St. Margaret’s, Barming from 1969 to 1976; and at St. Nicholas, Allington as deputy from 1978 to 1984, following which, he became the organist, a position he still currently holds.

As well as his organist’s appointments, Roger has a number of treasurer-ships; helps St. Nicholas church treasurer as required; belongs to Probus, the local Active Retirement Group; East Malling Singers; and, of course, is now President Elect of our Kent County Association. He enjoys foreign holidays and is returning to Australia this spring, having last visited in 2000. He is planning to visit his sister at Darwin and also has a cousin on North Island, New Zealand.

Roger will become our 51st President in July and with his many years’ experience at the organ-playing coalface, coupled with his affable approachability, he will surely prove an undoubted asset to our Association during his two years as President.

Roger Gentry

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