Our Beginning

Geoff WallerThe Rushmoor MVC was founded in 1960 by Geoffrey Waller specifically to sing in the Aldershot Music Festival. Approaches to local church choirs brought volunteers from many backgrounds and walks of life. Since there was an odd one from here and an odd one from there, the name “Odd Fellows” seemed very appropriate.Sadly Geoff died on 3 September 1998 at the age of 86; we shall miss his attendances at our concerts from time to time to check up on us – and ensure we were maintaining the very high standards he had sought for the Rushmoor MVC.

We were fortunate that Geoff was succeeded as Musical Director by Colin Wilson who maintained the standards and developed our style over twenty years. Colin was born in Merthyr Tydfil, educated in science at Oxford and has had a career in teaching. He brought a thoroughly professional level of expertise to the art of conducting and under his leadership the choir explored many new avenues of performance and achieved new heights. Colin hung up his baton at the end of 2000 and, although he occasionally joins the ranks of our Second Basses, he now does most of his singing with the London Welsh MVC.

Since then our Musical Director has been Steve Petch whose tenacious hard work, exuberance and profound skill is succeeding in bringing the choir to even greater heights! (see Our Music Mentors)

A tribute to Geoff Waller from Winnie Winter

Geoff Waller made an outstanding contribution to music in and around Aldershot.

He was kindly, humorous and encouraging. He possessed so many qualities which enabled him to lead and inspire others with reciprocal keenness.

I was privileged to work with Geoff when we were both involved in organising the Aldershot Festival. When difficulties arose he would be around and, in his genial way, would steer us through them. Sometimes he would enter himself as a competitor as a violinist, a singer or as conductor of our Grosvenor Road Church Choir, a position he held for twenty-five years, gaining many first awards and often receiving quite brilliant adjudications from well-known musicians.

Not only did he succeed as a conductor of smaller choirs such as The Pavilion Singers, a girls choir, whose accompanist, Jean, became his wife forty years ago, but he also trained and conducted augmented choirs to produce such difficult works as Verdi’s Requiem, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast and Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, all with full orchestra.

The male voice quartet he created, taking the tenor part, expanded when he founded the Odd Fellows Choir (Rushmoor MVC) whose concerts in the early days were known as “Music for You”.

What a wonderful record to leave behind! Saddened as we are by his death, the selfless work Geoff did in his lifetime will continue to give pleasure to others for many years to come.

Aldershot’s Mr Music – A personal memory by Ian Wood

“I have so many blessings in my life”. With these words ringing in my ears I took my farewell of Geoffrey Cyril Waller not realizing at the time that I would never see him again. It was typical of the man that he should think only of others bestowing blessings on him when he was the one who gave so much. On the 3rd of September 1998 only a short while after my visit Geoff died and the world is poorer at his passing.

I first came to know Geoff in the early fifties when I started competing in local music festivals. He asked me to take part in one of his ‘ Music for you ‘ concerts in the old Wesley Hall in Aldershot. That was the first of many joyous occasions until Geoff’s retirement in 1981. By then we were performing regularly in the Princes Hall in Aldershot and raising many thousands of pounds for local charities.

Geoff was a printer by trade. He and his brother Allan worked in their shop situated in Birchett Road. The business had been taken over by their Father in 1916. Being self employed Geoff was able to work ‘flexi – time’ as we now call it, which gave him the opportunity to indulge himself in his love of music making. As well as the monthly ‘ Music for you ‘ concerts there were full scale oratorios using professional soloists with augmented orchestra and large chorus, all organised and conducted by Geoff. Jean, his wife, with Ruth, John and Thomas their children, all became used to hearing hours of repetitive piano playing and singing, as Geoff learned the music he was about to conduct, for he was a perfectionist and made sure that he knew all the music at least as well as any performer and probably better than most. There are many musicians who have this ability but very few who can correct a mistake without, even mildly, upsetting the performer, Geoff could do this for, above all, he was a kind man, he was also a happy man, so laughter was endemic, and this drew people to him, ensuring that there was never a shortage of performers and helpers.

Over the years Geoff conducted orchestras and prize winning choirs until in 1960 he formed the Odd Fellows Male Voice Choir. This choir based in Aldershot and now known as the Rushmoor MVC. has grown from the original twelve or so to a current fifty plus. More of a glee club than straight choir it still retains Geoff’s original ideas on how to entertain an audience. Several of the original members ensure that this concept is not lost. The “Odds” as they are affectionately known are, probably, the most obvious reminder of Geoff’s musical efforts over the years retaining his ideals of presenting good music with humour as an unexpected bonus.

As choirmaster of the Grosvenor Road Methodist Church in Aldershot [ now, sadly, turned into flats] Geoff lead a church choir of high standard and many choir members helped with his other secular music making. He had been appointed Choirmaster in 1940 but almost immediately volunteered for military service, joining the RASC on his 26th. birthday. and for five years he served, mainly abroad, attaining the rank of Sergeant and receiving the honour of being mentioned in despatches.

In January 1975, “Hampshire” magazine printed an article about ‘Aldershot’s Mr Music’. At that time it seemed to us that, somehow, Geoff and his music, would go on forever, we were all enjoying ourselves so much, the future appeared to stretch far ahead with unending concerts and laughing, clapping audiences ever appreciative. The concerts do go on. Unfortunately, Geoff is no longer with us, but, he has left a legacy. Those of us who knew and, dare I say it, loved him, are richer as a result of having known him. He said ” As a Printer I earn my living – but music is my life ” He was certainly instrumental in bringing pleasure to many, a pun that, I know, would make him laugh, and he was always smiling, but the one thing that stands out like a beacon in my memory, is the fact that he never got annoyed, come what may Geoff would smile. Yes, Geoff, you had many blessings, and you left many more, particularly with those of us who had the privilege of enjoying the music making of “Aldershot’s Mr. Music “.

Ian Wood

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