Dr Robert James Ashfield, FRCO, Hon. FGCM
28th July 1911 – 30th December 2006
In our February 2007 Journal we sadly recorded the death of Dr Robert Ashfield at the age of 95, and that his funeral took place in Rochester Cathedral on 15th January. Choral Evensong and Celebration of his Life and Music followed this on 5th May. The combined choirs of Southwell Minster and Rochester Cathedral sang the service. This was most appropriate since Dr Ashfield was Organist and Rector Chori at Southwell 1946-1956, the position Paul Hale now holds. Paul, of course, was previously the Assistant Organist at Rochester, where he was greatly guided by Dr. Ashfield during his retirement.
It was indeed a celebration, with wonderful music sung by the two choirs, directed by Roger Sayer, Director of Music at Rochester Cathedral, and Paul Hale. Daniel Soper, Assistant Organist at Rochester played the Bach Prelude and Fugue in C minor (BWV 546) before the service, which he accompanied, while Simon Bell, Assistant Organist at Southwell, played the Prelude and Fugue in E minor (BWV 548) as the concluding voluntary.
The service opened with the Introit Be still, my soul, music by Robert Ashfield. Also included in the service were his fine chants for Psalm 107, a vigorous setting of the Benedicite, and the anthem Ah, see the fair chivalry come. The hymns chosen were All my hope on God is founded, and All creatures of our God and King. The First Reading was Isaiah 61 vv1-3, read by chorister George Meredith, and the Second Reading from Revelation 21 vv1-7 was read by Mrs Mary Ashfield. The Magnificat setting was Bairstow in D, with the Nunc Dimittis being sung after the Blessing.
The large congregation included a good number of KCOA members who had come to pay tribute to their President Emeritus. His legacy of much finely crafted music will be a permanent memorial to him. The singing at this service was inspirational, full and bold with a soaring treble line from the boys of both choirs, and it will long be remembered.
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