Anne Gee, who died aged 79, was a 17-year-old bride when in 1948 she and her husband Tommy travelled to Uganda together. He was a new recruit in the colonial service and Anne was allowed to go with him on the condition that she could find somewhere to stay, since there was limited married accommodation available.
Fortunately, she found a place with missionaries looking after people with leprosy. She had left behind a promising singing career; having won a national competition aged 16, but nevertheless became an enthusiastic amateur soloist in Uganda of song recitals, opera and oratorio, while at the same time raising a family there. They returned home to England after 17 years and Anne joined the opera course at the Guildhall School of Music in London. Responding to Asa Briggs’s enthusiasm for mature students at Sussex University, she enrolled for and obtained a music degree.
She travelled with Tommy to Fiji and Papua New Guinea. She maintained her infectious enthusiasm for music and, in Papua New Guinea, carried out three years of fieldwork on Melanesian music, researching conch-shell bands used for playing church music, and obtained her master’s degree. She also formed and conducted a choir there consisting almost entirely of indigenous people. One of their productions was a version of ‘Acis and Galatea’ sung to Handel’s music in Pidgin English.
In Sussex, she began to teach others to sing, especially those who were unaware that they could actually sing. She was a pioneer of this approach to teaching and encouraging amateur choirs, which she called “singing for those who can’t”.
In 2000 Anne founded the Harleston Choral Society and quickly introduced the members to a varied and demanding repertoire. Once she gave up the active running of the Society, she maintained a keen interest in all our doings, rising from her sick bed to attend our concerts.
But for Anne’s vision and enthusiasm Harleston Choral Society would not exist today, and you would not be able to enjoy the experience of live music in Harleston. We were privileged to be part of her Memorial concert in Wingfield Church, and we dedicated our Summer 2011 concert to her memory.
Following in his mother’s footsteps, we were delighted that one of Anne’s sons, Nathaniel, was our Patron until October 2021 .