Remembering Brian Holmes

Last year, exactly at Summer Course time, though there was no Champernowne Summer Course that year, our good friend Brian Holmes died quite suddenly, and he is sadly missed.

Brian loved to play the piano. An ever present course member since the late eighties, he was always available  to accompany singers and other musicians, a mainstay  – both as pianist and bass- of the Six 0’Clock Singers, and a frequent solo performer on the Your Turn evenings.

Brian also loved the classic tunes from the twenties and beyond, and each year brought his stack of books of Cole Porter, Kern, Gershwin, Roger with Hart or Hammerstein…..

In the earliest years, around ten each evening, he would gravitate to the Cumberland Lodge Drawing Room piano and just start to play.

Most enchanted evenings, we would hear him playing, we would hear him playing, from out the Drawing Room..

Over time people were drawn to the sound, and began to sing along with what Brian was playing, and then came the requests, “Can you play …….?” – to which Brian was invariably able to respond in the affirmative, however unlikely the title.

Over the decades this gathering became know informally as the 10 o’Clock Singers, and for some of us, not least your editor, a hidden highlight of the Course.   Sometimes the group was just two or three stalwarts, at other times it might swell to a dozen or more with people dancing as well as singing to I could have danced all night, or Shall we dance?

A highlight of most weeks was a rendition of songs from West Side Story, with particularly spirited, not to say raucous,  versions of I feel pretty, and America!

 Mose evenings would end with some quieter songs: Every time we say good bye, Two Sleepy People, Drink to me only with thine eyes…

In recent years Brian’s fluency and stamina were perhaps a little challenged, but never his love of the music, his generosity of spirit, nor his steadfastness in performing.

At the 2016 Summer Course Your Turn evening, an ad hoc group “the Brianettes” – 10 o’Clock Singers veterans all – with Hilary at the piano, gave a special performance in memory performance of Brian:

Just One of Those Things (a favourite over the years) in an adaptation by Gilian Clezy..

It was just one of our things, Just one of our Champernowne things..

It ended:

So farewell Brian and amen, we’ll think of you as we sing, 

I was great fun and it was – YES! – one of those things.

For those who knew Brian, his passing leaves a notable gap in the Course, not only from his abundance of music, but from his gentle presence and quiet, dry wit, yet it is a gap filled with many happy and poignant memories and with our deep gratitude and appreciation.

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