As an amateur musician (someone who can knock out a few hymns and voluntaries on the organ), I was welcomed with open arms by Revd. Ian Charlesworth when I arrived in Boughrood in the autumn of 2014. Slightly embarrassed to start with, I quickly became used to the wheezy old harmonium and did my best to get some big tunes out of it. However hard I tried, I was never able to match His Reverence for sheer passion and volume.
And so it went on. The first and third Sundays of each month brought the opportunity to pump up the harmonium in St Cynog’s Church, and play three hymns much too quietly. Then in the summer of 2016, an organ arrived, allowing me suddenly to become much, much noisier.
But try as I might, I could never quite drown out Ian when he was in full voice. Pretending to be the mathematician on ITV’s Countdown, I would take down the hymn board and put the numbers up, hoping that members of the congregation (which numbered somewhere between four and 20 on a typical Sunday) would be familiar with the music.
I suppose the best Sundays were the ones that followed a Welsh victory on the rugby field. Inevitably we would howl out Cwm Rhondda to the best of our ability, with endless reserves of hwyl from His Reverence. It’s said that we (or he?) could be heard over the hill in Boughrood Brest if the wind was right and the music was full volume (it usually was).
Later in 2016 we hatched a plan to combine the acting talents of the village children with the musical talent of Ian’s choir, the WernFach Singers. And so began the Celebration of Christmas, which packed the church a few days before Christmas – and came back by popular demand for the three subsequent years. Ramping up the organ volume for the last verse of Hark the Herald was always immensely exciting – even though I knew that Ian’s voice would triumph. Last year more than 100 people joined in at the tops of their voices, brought together by Ian’s enthusiasm and warm welcome.
Sundays come and go, and the church is quiet. The yard is tidy, but there’s no music and the bells haven’t rung for months. In our minds we had already imagined an even bigger Christmas celebration for 2020. Covid restrictions permitting, I hope we will be able to do something in St Cynog’s to honour our vicar. And when it’s time for the last verse and we all join together in song, I’m sure that he’ll be listening – and will still manage to be singing louder and more passionately than the rest of us.
God bless Ian. Thanks for his dedication, service, enthusiasm, support… and for a voice that will never be forgotten!
JL, Boughrood, August 2020