|OBITUARY - Andrew Curtis, 1959-2019
In December, we learnt the sad news that Andrew – who played so beautifully at Bruce’s funeral in August– had passed away peacefully at home with his family beside him after a diagnosis of terminal cancer only 4 weeks previously. I had seen him in hospital, when he shared his hopes that family, friends and colleagues would be uplifted by the music at his funeral.
On Tuesday, 28 January 2020, St Peter’s Church, Tiverton, was packed with hundreds of people who knew, loved and respected this gentle, patient, generous and gifted musician. Andrew loved Gilbert and Sullivan musicals; a lighting engineer had set up coloured lighting to enhance the church as the service proceeded into the early evening. He had requested that Stick play his favourite tunes, which we did in warm orange light as people gathered, followed by a much-enlarged church choir (of which he was director) singing peaceful hymns and a blessing before Andrew arrived. Tributes showed how much he was loved by so many people in Devon. Andrew was always available, always calm and supportive and generally always organised. Apparently he was sometimes late, and when we played together he had often forgotten his keyboard stool or glasses. Nonetheless, he could play anything in any key on request with infectious enthusiasm.
The last time Peter, Paul and I played with Andrew was at Templeton Church Harvest Supper on 5 October 2020. It was memorable. Andrew had carefully planned the programme with introductions, Stick tunes played acoustically and songs for audience participation. We set up as the harvest celebration was getting into full swing. The audience was loud, so we grabbed the PA from the car. It got louder, and Andrew looked a little despairing. Then he sang, and they listened. He directed part songs and rounds, and the audience became calm; they sang and they applauded. That was Andrew’s gift. To share the music he loved, gently, quietly and always without fuss, to enhance the lives of everyone around him.
Glenn Cannon, a long-standing and obviously dear friend of Andrew’s wrote this, and said I could share these insights. I didn’t know Andrew had an accordion!
No doubt you will have heard of the very sudden and unexpected death of our dear friend Andrew. I was so pleased to discover the link with your band as Andrew played his first Barn Dance gig with me (other than his playing for Kate Coombs) at the age of 14 when I, as a young teacher in Dawlish, and a bit of a folkie, had been asked to put a band together for a PTA Barn Dance.That would have been in about 1975 or 76
Andrew, already an exceptionally accomplished keyboard player was the hub of the band with myself on guitar and calling the dances, our music teacher Ann Witts on fiddle and on future occasions, drafting in such other musicians as were available to us. We continued on and off over the next 15 years and, with respect to Andrew's interest in the world of model railways, we called ourselves "Scratch Built" which was an apt description of whoever we could find or coerce to throw a band together for a PTA or a charity Barn dance.
We also shared an interest in G and S operas and other Am Dram works - collaborating in our respective schools and in the Dawlish Junior Savoyards, who ran as a Junior operatic society for ten years or so with Andrew often taking the role of Musical Director.
It has been nearly 30 years since I left Devon (I am now retired and living in Wales) but I returned just 3 months ago to come to Andrew's last show as Musical Director for St David's Players in Exeter. I would never have guessed that he was so soon to become ill and with such an untreatable diagnosis. His untimely passing is a loss not only to Viv and his wider family but to all of the communities in which his exceptional giftings were so well used.
Thank you for sharing that, Glenn.
May God bless you, too, Andrew. Thank you for your music and inspiration.
Stick the Fiddle