Rollo Woods' 80th Birthday Party
Harry and Margaret Woodhouse
Reproduced from an article in West Gallery no.35
I expect everyone in our society knows Rollo. Margaret and I met him before the WGMA was formed - we both had little groups singing West Gallery music, and shared a common interest in the history of church music. In 1997, when I was writing Face the Music I went to see Rollo at home, and he was extremely helpful, and full of enthusiasm for my book. Of course he himself produced Good Singing Still in 1995. This wonderful book has now sold out. He will probably be best remembered for his Praise and Glory published by the West Gallery Music Association in 2000. This magnificent volume must represent thousands of hours of painstaking research, recording these wonderful tunes and words for posterity.
Rollo was a professional librarian, and even in his hobbies everything is done in a professional way - lecturing, playing the concertina, dancing, conducting, researching and arranging music - even sailing! Everyone who meets him comes away with an unforgettable impression of scholarship and enthusiasm, tempered with a great sense of humour. It is hard to believe he is now over 80!
Margaret and I were privileged to attend his 80th birthday celebration on Saturday 18th June 2005 at East Morden Village Hall, an event we shall never forget. We were amazed when we found the new Village Hall. It is much better than anything we have in St. Austell, with about 100,000 population! It is surrounded by an enormous sports field, giving a wonderful impression of space and luxury. Inside, loyal WGMA members had prepared a feast for the assembled gathering.
Everyone was there except Rollo. We understand his wife had told him that he had to go to a baby show, but he had better take his concertina just in case. He was muttering because he had been hoping to go to a sing-song! When he arrived at East Morden his amazement and delight were obvious for all to see! It was a complete surprise. He was welcomed by Mike Bailey to great applause.
A special singing book had been produced for the occasion, including an Anthem by Mike Bailey dedicated to Rollo, Happy Birthday arranged by Chris Pullen, and many more musical gems arranged by our members. We all spent a joyous afternoon singing them - Rollo got his sing-song after all! We then had a mummers' play, Morris dancing and all sorts of impromptu entertainment before a splendid tea. After tea we danced into the night with our own band, including of course, Rollo himself. Margaret and I returned to our B&B in Lytchett Matravers, exhausted but with happy memories of celebrating the first 80 years of a great man's life.