I have known John for many a year as have most of the barbershoppers. He is the perfect example of “I don’t know but I know a man who does !”
John was a stalwart barbershopper and would be an asset to any club who held his membership. He was a founder member of the Nottingham Barbershop Club and a couple of Anvil members recall that he provided the first music for Anvil Chorus. He was the bass in the Sherwoodaires with no less than John Grant, and he used to comment that he knew John Grant before he was famous.
Some years ago, I am unable to remember how many, (it seems for ever) he moved back to Birmingham and joined Anvil Chorus. The Chorus was never quite the same again, John was the eternal volunteer and whenever help was needed you would find John in the middle. It wasn’t long before he was appointed Chorus Manager. I remember phoning him and spoke to Do. John was out but I told Do that John’s name had been put forward to fill the post of Chorus Manager and we wanted to know if he would accept. I learned later that it was a silly question; of course he would accept. He did a stint as membership Secretary too but I guess his heart was as Chorus Manager.
Since that date he has been involved in every outing and competition the Chorus has undertaken – places like Holland and Republic of Ireland and Conventions too numerous to mention. I remember John’s trip to Holland. He had injured his foot to prior to the event and travelled with two crutches. It could only happen to John that a fellow member decided to change the length of his crutches, one very high and the other very low. It was him who suggested that we sing a tag in Dutch on the Saturday Show at DABS. At a short stop in Brussels, John blew his pitch pipe in the main square to gather the chorus members. Barbershoppers came from everywhere and even two Sweet Adelines came. They heard a pitchpipe and came to investigate. On the return sea journey he arranged with the Bursar that we perform two short sing-outs. He had the philosophy of the impossible we do immediately, miracles take a little longer. Incidents like this are myriad.
John worked in the Campus Crew for many years at Harmony College and was responsible for arranging the provision of polo shirts for the faculty and students. He had a tremendous ability to make people feel and be very welcome. He seemed to know everybody by name.
Over the last few years, John was not a well man but he would not let this affect his beloved barbershop and his support of Anvil Chorus. He never complained of his illnesses and any mention was merely discussion. For him, nothing was too much trouble, often at his own inconvenience and, certainly Anvil Chorus was a better chorus for his being a member. If John had any faults it was his willingness to volunteer for anything that needed doing, and he complained vehemently when things did not go right – sometimes unjustifiably. He himself recognised that he had a short anger fuse but he bore no grudge and always came back smiling. I guess that you could describe him as a little man with a big heart.
He was a great friend to me personally and was extremely helpful and encouraging both inside and outside barbershop. It is difficult to repay such friendship. His departure to that ‘chorus in the sky’ has made us all very sad. We have had difficulty coming to terms with this loss and we feel his going very acutely after his long and committed, no, devoted service.”
John Ellis, PRO, Anvil Chorus