John Ellis

During his 34 years of membership John undertook almost every conceivable role in the Club other than that as Chairman. So he covered responsibilities as Secretary to the Management Committee for many years and as part of this managed to get us all registered for our Conventions as well as making hotel bookings. During the years when we provided quartets to go around the Midlands singing for loved ones, he was a key player in the planning of timings and routes for the singers involved in the financially lucrative venture.

Beyond this role John has more recently, and within the development of the Executive, with its charitable status, led the Administration activity which incorporated the organisation and promotion of Learn to Sing courses which have proved a useful recruitment source for the Chorus.

Unlike many choruses in the UK, West Midlands should be proud of the fact that we produced our own in-house magazine usually about 8 times a year and without question this was entirely down to John’s enthusiasm and his willingness to badger members, as only he could do, for news articles. He wrote copiously for the magazine and Edited it into its final form for printing.

He won the two Club Awards by taking the Sides Family Trophy in 1986, voted for by the entire membership, as well as the Joe Riseborough Rosebowl in both 1995 and 2005 when the Management Committee formally recognised his substantial and ongoing contributions to the life and success of the Club.

John would have accepted that he was not the strongest of our Lead singers but he put huge efforts into learning songs old and new and at the time of his death had successfully recorded no less than 19 songs to our Purple Dot Standard – this only being bettered by just eight existing chorus members. He was part of the Chorus which won the Bronze medal in Harrogate at the 1988 Convention as well as a Silver Medal in the Irish Convention of 2003 in Tallacht, Dublin. Whilst many singers studiously shun the opportunity to be on the front row, John seemed to have an inbuilt need to be out there and no matter what re-stacking took place, given the chance, he would find his way back to the front!

Rod Butcher recounts the tale about calling John out to the front of the audience at a singout some years ago, and then leaving him to conduct a song alone – noting the John never batted an eyelid but carried off the directing with aplomb. Another tale I am assured is true, is the evening when John was announcing songs to an audience when he explained that we sing many song to, about or containing the names of ladies. He went on to announce the next song which was ‘Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina…..’!

John was elected a Life Member of the Club with Rod Butcher in 2011, a very deserved recognition, sitting alongside his BABS pins for his 25 and 30 years membership of the Association. Quite apart from his contributions to Anvil Chorus, John became a stalwart in the organisation and delivery of the BABS Annual Harmony Colleges held at Universities around the Midlands and he did this for some 29 such events taking in bookings, dealing with the associated finances; sorting out accommodation and handling myriad questions on the reception desk where Barbershoppers from all over the country got to know him with his quips and assistance. Unfortunately John was unable through his illnesses to attend the 2013 College but scores of those attending sent personal messages back to him from that event.

As his Wife, Celia, said to me just before the funeral service, ‘John absolutely loved his Barbershop’ which is why he gave so much to his main hobby over the years. It was a fitting tribute that there were around 50 singers at his funeral drawn from current and past members of Anvil Chorus but also representatives from BABS and those associated with Harmony College. The singing of ‘Irish Blessing’ offered a moving conclusion to the funeral service. It was ironic that out of a large Barbershop attendance not a single pitch pipe [and telephone apps disabled ] was found for the key to this song – a point which would not have been lost on John who invariably carried his and was always ready to step into the breach and probably singing it in the key he preferred anyway , as Duncan Whinyates notes.

We are delighted that Celia, who is herself a long-standing Honorary Member of the Club, plans to keep her association with us.

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