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Ceremony in London

At a ceremony at the Civil Service Club, London, yesterday, Dr. Maurice Merrell was presented with the degree of Doctor of Letters of the University as well as being invested with the inaugural Leonard Henderson Memorial Professorship.

Merrell WOU ceremony

The ceremony followed a celebration lunch attended by a number of Dr Merrell’s friends and colleagues. Above Dr. Merrell is seen at the presentation with the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor.

The citation for Dr. Merrell, delivered by the Registrar, was as follows:

It gives me great pleasure to deliver this citation in honour of our friend Maurice Merrell and I am greatly indebted to his lifelong friend Dr David Bell for his invaluable help in its preparation. David is very sorry not to have been able to be with us here today at this lunch but sends his very best wishes to you all.

Maurice Edward Merrell was born a Londoner, and has spent his entire life living in one of London’s most fashionable areas – St John’s Wood. Before he was twenty he was organist at St James, Bermondsey, one of the large ‘Waterloo’ churches seating over 2000 people. It possessed an historic and famous organ over which he presided every Sunday. In addition he was organist at the Trocette Cinema in Bermondsey where one of his duties was to play for the Saturday morning Rank Cinema Club for children. He left Bermondsey to become organist at St Peter’s, Islington, then later at St Paul’s, Marylebone. Also at this time he found time to be an officer in the Church Lads’ Brigade. He then moved to St George’s, Bloomsbury in the heart of London’s West End, where he served with much distinction for thirty years. Currently he is organist at St John’s Church, Kensal Green.

Alongside all of this, his main career has been in the craft of organ-building. He became an apprentice at 16 years of age at the long-established firm of Bishop and Son (with branches at London and Ipswich). Right from the start he showed great aptitude and dedication for organ building, with an unmistakeable flair for voicing and tonal finishing. Over the years, he has become known for the personal service he has willingly given to clergy and organists.

Eventually Maurice became manager of the London workshop with its multifarious duties of estimating and design work.  The firm’s Director was Miss H.M. Suggate, and on her death, Maurice was appointed head of the firm, and ever since he has given loyal and utterly devoted service to the company in that role for many years. He works to the highest standards, and the many organs on which he has worked each bear the stamp of excellence. His knowledge is immense, and his views and comments have always been of inestimable value to organists (and also their committees) and always have been based on a sound and reasoned assessment of the work and problems involved.

Another important aspect of Maurice’s musical life has been his support of some of the smaller music colleges and other professional institutions and his list of qualifications is most impressive. He is a Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Organ Builders (also serving on the Council) and sometime President of the London Organists’ Guild. He is well known to all of us as one of the original founders of the Guild of Musicians and Singers where he serves with great distinction as the Chairman of the council. He is also the Treasurer of the Curwen College of Music and holds a number of diplomas, both earned and honorary, including the Fellowship of the National College of Music.

Earlier this year he gave an organ recital for the Institute of Arts and Letters, London of which he is a Fellow, and some years ago was also involved in the planning of the proposed British Academy of Music, of which the late Carlo Curley was to have been the Patron, but sadly this never came to fruition. He has also given much valued support to the Central School of Religion, especially in looking after the organ at St Jude’s in Balham.

Maurice is proud of his role as President of the Society of Crematorium Organists, which started in a somewhat light-hearted fashion but which now boasts over 620 Fellows from village to cathedral organists (including nine gentlemen seated round this table.) Even the esteemed comedian and sometime Crematorium Organist Bill Bailey mentions his Honorary Fellowship of the Society on his Wikipedia page. Finally, Maurice is probably the only person I know who can boast of a Facebook appreciation society devoted entirely to him and his work.

As Dr Bell concludes, “Above all else, his integrity as a person shines through all else, and he takes great pride in all that he does. His career has been a long and successful one, and his colleagues and friends all send their best wishes.”

It is now my great pleasure to invite Maurice to come forward to receive from Professor Kersey the degree of Doctor of Letters from the Western Orthodox University and to be invested as the Leonard Henderson Memorial Professor.