A Tribute to Alan Rickman 1925-2015

Alan Rickman, life member of Birmingham Clarion Singers, stalwart Communist Party member and Morning Star supporter, has died at the age of 90.

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Alan was born and bred in Birmingham, and joined the Communist Party in 1946 on his return from wartime service. He was a keen cyclist, winning many awards for his speed as a member of Solihull Cycling Club, and a skilled toolmaker and engineer.

He met his life partner and wife Irene through the Party, and was persuaded to try singing when he turned up in his motorbike and sidecar to pick her up from a lesson at the house of Elsie and Martin Marshall. Although protesting he could not sing, with Elsie and Irene’s encouragement, he eventually discovered a rich tenor voice.

It was not long before Alan was persuaded to join the Birmingham Clarion Singers workers choir by Irene, and he was extremely grateful to Elsie for convincing him he had a voice, and for helping him to find it.

He took on several notable roles; Monostatos in Magic Flute, Hugh in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Hugh the Drover, Matt of the Mint in the Beggar’s Opera and various others. He was also a popular member of the Old Time Music Hall group and Barbers’ Shop Quartet.

He became an excellent stage manager for many of the operatic and dramatic performances of the ’50s and also supplied technical help in the Centre 42 workshops.

Alan could regularly be seen on street corners and political events in Birmingham, selling the Morning Star and supporting the West Midlands Pensioners Convention. That was when he wasn’t singing.

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As a valued member of the AEU, Alan was given awards of merit by Kings Heath Brandwood Branch, for over 40 years’ service as District Committee delegate, Branch President and Trustee. In later life he treasured these mementoes of his many years as an active and influential trade unionist.

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With Irene, he continued to attend Birmingham Clarion Singers rehearsals until ill health made it impossible, but they both continued to support Clarion, and were awarded lifetime honorary memberships in 2014. A similar accolade was conferred by the Workers Music Association, in recognition of their contribution to music and the labour movement. Alan celebrated the 75th anniversary of Clarion in the week of his 90th birthday, and quietly sang along to many of his favourite songs during the evening. Music was with him right to the end, still managing to join in, even when his speech had gone. His voice and his quiet, easy manner will live in our memories, and we are thankful for a life lived to the full, and dedicated to an ambition of peace, hope and socialism.

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Alan Rickman 1925 – 2015

This tribute has also been published in the Workers Music Association Bulletin, and The Morning Star.

Our Spring concert

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Last night we presented our Spring Concert at the All Saints Centre in Kings Heath, Birmingham. The evening raised funds for a scholarship to the Workers Music Association Summer School, and was dedicated to the memory of our great friend and Clarion member, Alan Rickman.  In the first part of the evening, Clarion sang several workers songs: Stand Out Ye Miners, Down in the Coalmine (solo Rob Harper), The Roses of Lidice (with piano accompaniment from the talented Jayne Baggett), North Sea Holes and Saltley Gate.

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We were then treated to the talents of our three invited guests.

First up, Gill Holmes, with some wonderful welsh ballads.

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Followed by the wonderful accordion skills of Ingrid Gould (with support from Tim Martin on ukelele)

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And rounded off by the fantastic folk of Marion and Steve Harper (and their many hats).

To complete the evening, Birmingham Clarion Singers returned, with Carry Greenham Home (solo Anne Lockyer), This Path (music by Ben Aitken), Suzi’s Home (solo Annie Banham, tuba played by Rob Harper), Big Society (written and performed by Tim Martin), Scarecrow, and Power in the Union. A chorus of The Internationale ended the evening, with choir and audience singing in unison.

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Of course we couldn’t go home with having a final singalong –

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See you all again in the Autumn!

Thank you to Adrian Banham for the great photos, to Neil and Jan for looking after the bar and buffet, and to Gill for meeting and greeting at the door. We are indebted to all our friends and supporters.

Katie Fitzgeralds Born, Bred Believe – supporting Pete Lowe, Stourbridge Labour Candidate

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A great night at Katie Fitzgerald’s in Stourbridge on April 9th. We were providing support to the election campaign for local Labour candidate Pete Lowe. We were treated to some excellent blues from singer-songwriter Gary O’Dea,  who we recently sang some backing vocals for on his track “Build it Like a Rock”.

We sang ten songs, including miners songs, the Saltley Gate song, and some rousing African songs. We rounded off the performance with an unscheduled encore of “Freedom” .

A fantastic evening, with some very inspiring individuals. Here’s to many more nights like this!

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