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News > Obituaries > Obituary - Gwyn Arch

Obituary - Gwyn Arch

It is with regret that we notify you of the death of Gwyn Arch (OI 1942-49)
8 Jun 2021
Written by Carrie Baker


ARCH, Gwyn. Passed 6th June 2021

Gwyn was at the school from 1942-1949 and will be sadly missed by his friends and family.

We are conscious that many people from this time at school may not be in contact with us and we would be very grateful if you could pass on this information to those that you know.

As is the usual practice, we would like to place an obituary for him in the next OI Journal and would be very grateful if anyone felt they could come forward to write one. Alternatively, if you know of any stories or memories, please pass them on so we could put them together for the publication. Address any contributions to me through or in the comments below.

With best wishes

Iain Chesterman
OI Chairman


Alfred Waller - Gwyn Arch

Gwyn Arch - recollections

When I heard about the "Celebration of Ipswich School Music" (quite accidentally, and never having heard the school mentioned in my presence in the last 50 years), I quickly realised that there were many compelling reasons for coming to the concert. First, I was a pupil at the school between 1942 and 1949; the second I was taught piano by Stanley Wilson; third, my father was a curate at St. Peter's church at that time, (I sang in the choir); finally, I knew Ben Parry fairly well - we had collaborated in compiling and arranging between us most of the 40 songs and carols in the "The Faber Carol Book" (2001). But I never knew until the end of August this year that he, too, had attended the school. 

My recollections of my career at the School are pretty hazy. I left nearly 60 years ago. At the time, the governors were awarding scholarships to the top six boys in the Borough's 11+ exam, and my mother (a strong character) made sure I got one of them.  It was during the war, of course, and (as I learned later) most of the best teachers were in the armed forces. However, the teacher who made the greatest impression on me was Stanley Wilson. Lessons were in the front room of his big, cold, Victorian semi-round the corner from the school. He was my first piano teacher (yes, I know 12 is far too late to begin) and he often used his own work for teaching purposes. I remember learning his "Androcles and the Lion" (a set of little descriptive pieces probably about grade 2 standard) and thinking of how lucky I was to be taught by a famous composer. Indeed, I had hitherto thought that all composers were dead!  My most enduring memory was his insistence that every week I played to him a "composition". He would tell me to invent something descriptive of a fairground or a foggy day, or an air raid (there were plenty of those in 1942, and very scary, too). He took all my elementary, feeble efforts very seriously, and always showed me how to make my ideas more interesting and more musical. Without his encouragement at a critical stage of adolescence, I do not think I would ever have thought of writing music, and  I continue to be more than grateful to Stanley Wilson for his enlightened teaching. He also taught me the organ which was an early electronic model in the school chapel and a somewhat feeble affair. Otherwise, I can't remember much music in the school at all. There was no orchestra or choir, and 'classroom' music was conducted in the hall by a large lady we used to call "Miss Twinset". We sang from the 'New National Song Book', which was pretty old even then (it was published in 1905 - I still have a copy).  She sat behind the piano, played very loudly, and now and then would stand up as she played and say equally loudly “I can't hear you sing up".  I took 'A' level (then called Higher Certificate - 'O' levels were 'School Certificate'), which I think was taught by Wilson's successor. I must have passed it fairly well as I got a delayed entry to Cambridge, but in the end, I read English. 'Delayed' was all the rage in those days - most people opted to do their National Service first. I turned to a career in music fifteen years later, having learned more about how it worked through playing in a jazz band than any other source. Consequently my arranging style.


Anon writes:

Gwyn Arch studied English at Cambridge University where he played for both the Cambridge and Oxford University jazz bands. He began his teaching career as Head of English in a large secondary school, whilst studying composition in his spare time at Trinity College London. Gwyn subsequently became Director of Music at Bulmershe College of Higher Education, Reading. Under his direction, the choir represented the UK seven times in the International rounds of the BBC competition Let the Peoples Sing.

After studying English at Cambridge and education at Oxford, he started work as an English teacher. His musical talent was revealed through school drama and musicals - and when he could not find suitable music to perform with his pupils, he wrote his own! His ability to draw music out of people led to his appointment, with no previous experience of (or qualifications in) teaching music, as Director of Music at Bulmershe College of Higher Education, Reading in 1964, where he formed the Bulmershe Girls Choir. The choir achieved success at international level and travelled extensively to take part in competitions and festivals, representing the country seven times in the international rounds of the BBC competition Let the Peoples Sing.

He had arranged many works for the Faber choral catalogue, specialising in young choirs. His arrangements feature regularly in the Sainsbury's Choir of the Year contest and the UK Music for Youth Competition.

Gwyn was made an OBE for services to music in Berkshire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2006.

Gwyn Arch as well as his work as a Musical Director of South Chiltern Choral Society, Gwyn Arch was also a very successful arranger of choral music, with nearly a hundred of his arrangements being published by Faber Music in the last ten years - music for youth choirs and upper voice groups, and including 17 of the 40 arrangements in the highly-successful Faber Carol Book. He also contributed significantly to the catalogue of a leading German publisher as well as publishing his own catalogue of arrangements for Male voice choirs (Grove Music). 

The Faber Carol Book is an exciting volume of Christmas carols and songs with an original, contemporary twist, designed to breathe fresh air into Christmas concerts. It contains forty pieces, expertly edited and arranged by Gwyn Arch and Ben Parry, capturing a variety of moods and styles through time - from contemporary arrangements of medieval and traditional carols to spirituals, and music from around the world. There is also an impressive line-up of original pieces by some of today's most highly respected choral composers, including Howard Goodall, Lin Marsh, Peter Gritton, Errollyn Wallen, and Mike Brewer.


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