Toad Lane Concerts: Margaret Ferguson soprano & Jonathan Ellis piano lead goodbyes to concert stalwart

Date published: 12 November 2023

Wednesday's (8 November) Toad Lane concert was tinged with sadness with the news that Frank Lever, one of St Mary in the Baum’s long-standing church members, had passed away the night before. The genial nonagenarian was churchwarden in 2000 and became an original committee member of TOLPAC, which agreed to host the lunchtime concerts after the group became homeless. He remained a fervent supporter, often manning the door. He was also elected the very first ‘Man of Rochdale’.

He will be remembered with great affection and much missed.

The celebrated duo, soprano Margaret Ferguson and pianist Jonathan Ellis have been an ideal partnership for many years, and they were among Frank’s favourites. Margaret’s charismatic personality and wonderful singing and Jonathan’s powerful playing never ceased to delight him. On learning of Frank’s passing the previous night, Margaret spontaneously introduced Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus as an opening to the recital, which was dedicated to him and proved to be a fitting requiem.

A cheerful song by Carey was followed by sumptuous arias by Handel, Saint-Saens and Rossini and works by F Paolo Tosti, including his renowned Goodbye (noted for its many repeats of the word).

The audience were enraptured as usual and demanded, and got a cheeky encore. But it was clear on many levels, that this was not goodbye, but au revoir.

This was concert number 1,062 since taking over from the council in 2001. The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday at 12.30pm at St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale, OL16 1DZ. Entrance fee is £6. No refreshments available. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.

To see details of forthcoming Toad Lane Concerts, click here.

Dr Joe Dawson

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