Rosemary Day, who died on September 18th, was a remarkable and fearless woman who possessed great vision and energy.
JCS Music Director Peter Broadbent writes:
‘When I first met Rosemary, she was a Director of London Buses Ltd, where she was preparing the company for privatisation, and she demonstrated enormous confidence and ability to carry projects through whatever problems she encountered.
‘Her passion for music led her to sing with various choirs when she had the time, but she wanted to invest some of her capital and enthusiasm into a new performing group. Our first discussion took place at a pub in Kent, and only a few months later we were auditioning singers and ready to launch a new group.
‘She often said that the JCS “was conceived in a pub and named in a Wine Bar”, which was true. After London Buses she moved to the private sector again for a while with Allied Dunbar, and then on to Chair London Ambulances at a crucial time. I remember her saying after one frustrating day at Dunbar’s Swindon offices that “meetings were invented by men, so that no one had to take responsibility for anything”, and that she was much happier to decide on a course of action and accept responsibility if it went wrong.
‘Money alone doesn’t create a company of any kind, and it was a terrific learning curve for me to work alongside someone as clear-minded and enthusiastic as Rosemary. Her ability to plan was evident in the early days of the choir, because we realised that however good the product was it needed to be known. So alongside concert programmes we decided that some competitive singing would help to establish the choir, and knew that TV would help to spread our name and the visual impact including the (since much-imitated) coloured jackets designed by Jan.
‘In 1990 we entered the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen, and in winning the Chamber Choir category not only made new friends but were seen on S4C. The idea in entering the Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year competition, as it was then, was that if we got to the quarter-finals we would be on BBC TV at least once, and no one was more surprised or happier than Rosemary that we won. This led to an invitation to a Choral festival in Leningrad, our first foreign tour which was a great experience for us all. Competitive success in Tours, Tolosa and Arezzo all helped to establish our reputation and a real sense of teamwork.
‘Rosemary was very clear on our respective roles, and never once tried to persuade me to go against my musical instinct. Indeed her enthusiasm for the music of Bach led to two performance of the Mass in B minor with superb period instrument players at St. John’s Smith Square. There was no way that the costs would be recovered through the Box Office, but she loved it so much and was happy to subsidise this, as well as putting money in regularly to support our a cappella programmes.
‘Her vision for a series of Choral Classics in conjunction with the City of London Sinfonia at the Barbican Centre and her support for a major Millennium project involving 3 commissioned works for choir and violin led to an Arts Council Touring grant. Our European trips to France, Germany, Denmark, Hungary and Spain all sprang from those early competitions, and she enjoyed them hugely, if a little less so in Italy, where she found the organisation a little too laid back to be acceptable. Tact was not amongst her many virtues, but she showed immense warmth and support to individual members of the choir which are remembered in the tributes taken from our Facebook page. Her faith in my ability was hugely important to me, and her confidence in my selection of repertoire and composers enabled JCS to develop relationships with some of the leading composers of the last 30 years.
‘In 2001 Rosemary decided to step down – she had been a tireless Chair and I am pleased that the choir she created still includes many singers that she knew, and that we still perform new music and encourage young musicians. Our aim was always to make music joyful for everyone, singers and audience alike. As those of you who saw her Funeral Ceremony will know, after Rosemary “retired” she put her immense energy into many different activities, and was a very active Trustee and supporter of several organisations including Plant Heritage, Chiswick House and Gardens, The Railway Children and, in the musical world, the wonderful I Fagiolini. She also found time to study for and complete her PhD before her illness became too critical, but did not live long enough for an award ceremony.’
Peter Broadbent, October 2020
Other Tributes from JCS Singers:
That is so sad. A remarkable woman. Every member of the JCS owes her so much!! (Tim Bull)
Rosemary was her own person. She was strong, determined, resourceful, influential, mischievous, musical, passionate, kind, opinionated, generous, argumentative, supportive, nurturing of talent in others, strategic – and always right of course! Rosemary partnered with Peter to create JCS. Without her I would not have had the privilege to sing at such a high level, to premiere the pieces, to experience the thrill of singing at the places I have been. Most importantly, without her, I wouldn’t have had the friends for life that I have. God bless you Rosemary. (Debbie Johnstone)
She was indeed remarkable, and brought such energy and commitment to the founding of JCS. She was generous and so encouraging to me personally, for which I will always be grateful. Rest in peace, Rosemary. It was a privilege to know you. (Kate Cook)
She dispensed wisdom, kindness and generosity to so many people and her visionary support of JCS was so richly rewarded. An extraordinary and lovely person. RIP Rosemary. (Tricia Rees-Jones)
Most of all Rosemary was a good friend, offering support and ideas whether it was singing repertoire or gardening tips. She put all her energy, enthusiasm, intelligence and generosity into every she was involved with and JCS was just one of the recipients of that. Music meant a lot to her and I think she got a lot from her experience with JCS , making music together to a very high standard. I will miss her very much. RIP fellow second alto. (Lorna Perry xxx)
Amazing strength, commitment and energy in everything Rosemary did. Thinking of her and you all xx (Victoria Kane)
What terribly sad news, we can only echo what everyone else has said, she was kind and incredibly generous and will always be remembered with fondness, rest in peace Rosemary xx (Bridget Howarth)
Where to start? Yes, determined and a principled business woman, but her backing of JCS meant it could operate in a way many pro groups dream of. Behind her business exterior was a mischievous heart of gold, and we all have many stories of those! She has left her mark on the world through business and her mark on our hearts through JCS. Rest in Peace Rosemary. (Simon Filsell)
Where to start indeed. A very generous, kind-hearted ,formidable organiser, and who was personally so kind to me on my return from France after my split with my then fiancé. Amazing to think she came to mind only a couple of days ago! I remember her saying to me “Never be less than you are” and that has stayed with me ever since, RIP Rosemary….I expect you are now part of that Heavenly Choir with my beloved Michael.xx
Yes, she could be infuriating but fun loving and one of the kindest people I’ve had the privilege to know. (Clare Porter)
Inspirational, irreplaceable and irrepressible. We had fun together in the second altos. RIP Rosemaryxx (Wendy Norman)
What very sad news . We at JCS owe her a huge debt of gratitude for all she did behind the scenes to ensure Peter could bring his vision for the choir to life. RIP Rosemary (Amanda Abbitt)
I was so shocked yesterday to hear this very sad news. Somehow I always thought of Rosemary as totally invincible. I also had thought that I’d kept in contact with her fairly regularly – we used to meet up very occasionally for lunch. She was a master of talking about herself for an hour at a time as well, yet she had been so supportive of me all those difficult years of writing my book, and was so pleased for me of my success when it was published. I last saw her briefly at the Aldeburgh Festival last summer. I guess cancer isn’t the sort of thing you talk about in a Christmas card. And I think she must have just got her PhD too, of which she would have been so proud. (Elaine Gould)