|Alfred J "Fred" Crowhurst|
|Education||Boston Grammar School (1945-46)|
|Employer||J Sainsbury, RAF, Lever Bros.|
|Notable work(s)||Songster Leader of the Birmingham Citadel Songster Brigade of the Salvation Army (c1964-c1989)|
|Children||Three sons, and one adopted son|
In his own words
An article by "Fred" Crowhurst, written in 2002.
"NEXT!" "NEXT!!" "NEXT!!!"- the words still ring out even after 57 years. One by one, we unfortunate schoolboys shuffled to our feet and then sat down again, unable to answer the probing questions on Shakespeare's 'As you Like it" coming from the shambolically attired, hawk eyed Billy Bastick. His has always been the first name to come up whenever I have met up with a BGS old boy. My parents, Salvation Army Officers, arrived in Boston within one week of VE day and I was duly ensconced in the local Grammar School- 5b to be precise. I had attended 8 different schools previously but have never been able to recall a more colourful array of characters that attempted to instil some learning in me:- 'Binky' Border, 'Snoddy' Deighton, 'Froggy' Howes, 'Laddie' Lockwood, 'Tilly' Turpin and of course 'Very curious Freddy Cox'. However did they acquire these appellations?
As I was a fairly proficient Euphonium player, I joined the School Orchestra, nothing like the sophisticated groups of the present day I'm afraid. However, with the assistance of the redoubtable Billy Bastick (Pianoforte) and Laddy Lockwood (violin) and an assortment of 6th formers we managed a public performance of Haydn's Toy Symphony. I recall in one rehearsal that an unscripted over-vigorous glissando from Mr Bastick drew quite profuse bleeding from his finger which made rather a 'bloody' mess of the keyboard. It was during these rehearsals that I appreciated a somewhat different kinder face of this gentleman.
My only other notable achievement during this time was to play in the School football and cricket teams. A more illustrious goalkeeper followed me three or four years later in the person of Mike Pinner - an amateur international.
I had attended so many different schools due to my parents 'itinerant' occupation, that I was unable to take up the cudgels studying German and Latin at BGS as I had missed 2 years study. During these periods I was delegated to read up Biology - a sort of self-study. This among other things gave me the opportunity to study the eccentricities of notables like 'Snoddy' Deighton as he chased one unfortunate boy round the desk shouting "Öffnen sie den mund!". It is interesting to note that as a result of my 'self study' in Biology I achieved a School Certificate credit - something perhaps for latter day educationalists to ponder - and much to the surprise of 'Laddy' Lockwood who had written me off. I finished my school days with a very modest School Certificate and was dispatched to London where I started a course as trainee manager with 'J. Sainsbury'.
I really didn't like grocery retailing at all and after National Service in the RAF I joined an Insurance Company as a trainee inspector where I met my wife-to-be. We recently celebrated our Golden Wedding. From here I joined Lever Bros, part of the Unilever organisation and remained with them until I retired in 1989 on the sales side of the business.
I have always retained my membership of the Salvation Army and soon after we arrived in Birmingham I was invited to lead the choir or Songster Brigade as it is known in SA circles. It was in this situation that I was able to exploit my one talent - an ability to communicate with people. Together with my inherent love of music, it enabled me to create and mould a 55 strong mixed-voice choral group that became internationally famous throughout the 'Army' world. This, allied to the main purposes of any such group within the SA, which is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has given me tremendous satisfaction. During those years we travelled the length and breadth of the UK giving concerts and conducting meetings. We performed the three great oratorios: 'Messiah', 'Elijah' and 'Creation', toured the Netherlands and Canada, and made four LPs. Unfortunately I retired just before CDs were coming on stream. It has been my privilege to conduct the choir in a number of the great concert halls of the world including 'The Royal Albert Hall', 'The Roy Thomson Hall' in Canada as well as many other well-known venues in the UK. One of our recordings reached a couple out in the heartlands of Africa. They were considering giving up their calling as Missionaries. The words expressed in an old Manx hymn - 'O good old way how sweet thou art, may none of us from thee depart' persuaded them to remain at their post. Incidents such as this have given me great encouragement and satisfaction over the years.
Now at the age of 72 I am still living with my wife in Birmingham. We both have taken up bowls since retiring. We have three sons of our own and one who was 'adopted' - he came to us for a fortnight and has been with us ever since. We also have ten grandchildren. I still retain an interest in football by visiting Aston Villa from time-to-time and also edit our local Salvation Army magazine, which seems to keep me occupied.
I still recall my BGS days with great pleasure, even when I was serving a detention, by scraping the protective anti splinter webbing off the windows in those immediate post war years.
Birmingham Citadel Songster Brigade of the Salvation Army - Tour of Canada, Spring 1986
Extracts from the tour brochure
Birmingham is the United Kingdom's second largest city. Its growth and wealth has been brought about by the multiplicity of engineering skills of its' inhabitants. Always a city looking to the future ("Forward" is the motto on its Coat of Arms) it is now the home of many well-known international companies. Seven years ago brought the opening of the country's first National Exhibition Centre which now hosts the majority of the country's major trade fairs and many international ones too. Situated in the Heart of England, Birmingham is ideally placed to serve the country's needs. It is the centre of the motorway network system, has fast rail links to all parts of the country, and its recently extended International airport makes Europe and beyond just a step away It is from this dynamic, sometimes brash city that the Birmingham Citadel Songster Brigade have been presenting the gospel for nearly 100 years. During this time it has become one of the best known Choral groups in The Salvation Army worldwide. Its reputation has been based not only on its ability to tackle the most demanding of Salvationist compositions and classical choral works (being the first Brigade to give complete performances of The Messiah, Elijah and the Creation), but on the presentation of the gospel by simple straightforward songs. The Brigade is made up of people from all kinds of employment who give their time and talent freely both with the Songster Brigade and the numerous activities undertaken by an active Salvation Army Corps.
Alfred Crowhurst has been songster leader for nearly 25 years. His parents were Salvation Army Officers serving in many parts of the United Kingdom. He is well known in Army circles, not just for the leadership of the Brigade, but also for many years tuition at the National School of Music at Sunbury Court and lately Cobham Hall. He has also been guest conductor at a number of special events and in 1983 visited Canada in this capacity. His interest both in the Brigade and its personnel has always been paramount with no task however small being a burden. He has been supported during this time by his wife Pat, who is also one of the Brigade's librarians. They have four sons, three of whom are married and one who still lives at home. In everyday life Fred is a Senior Representative for a multinational company.