December 10, 2015

Obituary – Allan Minifie

It is with sadness that we mark the passing of Allan Minifie, organist, devoted family man, and friend for so many in his wide circle of influence.

Allan Minifie 103567653

Barrie Collett, fellow organist, and RSCMNZ Auckland Secretary/Treasurer, recalls how he knew Allan very well.

“I also used to know his father Lester very well. Lester was the Registrar of the Lay Readers Association which was then very active in Auckland. I followed Lester years later by also becoming the Registrar. I first met Allan in about 1968 when he came a few times to St Peter’s Church in Takapuna to play for an occasional Service. In 1969 the then organist Bert Evans resigned after having played at this Church since about 1954. At this time the Rev Gordon King was the Vicar and I was People’s Warden. Ron Whittome was the Vicars Warden. (As it happens I was talking to Ron’s wife Faye this morning. She is now 90.) When Bert Evans resigned I was appointed by the Vestry to Chair a small sub committee in order to appoint a new organist. There were 3 applications. I had filled in as their organist for a period of 6 months but was too busy and therefore I did not wish to be a candidate for this position.

“Allan was one of the candidates. We got each organist to come to an interview and asked each one to play some pieces on the organ. After consultation with Vicar Gordon King it was decided to appoint Allan to the position. Allan was then about 22. He was very talented as an organist. He had up to that stage been the organist at St Philips St Helier’s. Allan subsequently married Fran who lives in the family home in Ellerslie. It was always quite a journey for him to come all the way to Takapuna. This did not deter him one bit. He was always very enthusiastic and over a period of time he slowly built up an excellent choir ( the choir numbers having gone down somewhat because of disagreements between the previous organist and the Vicar ). There were many weddings on Saturdays and there were also funerals taking place. Allan managed to find the time to play for most of the Services which for many years included a morning and an evening Service on Sundays. There were also Choir Practises to conduct on Wednesday evenings and sometimes special practises on Saturday. Choir practises on Sundays commenced at 9.0am with the morning Service occurring at 10.0am. Allan served for almost 40 years as organist for St Peter’s Takapuna having resigned from there in 2008. In the more recent years Allan was ably assisted by the late Ron Powell who carried out most of the organ playing while Allan conducted the choir. Over the many years he served, there were numerous occasions when the St Peter’s Choir sang for “Praise Be” and “Hymns for Sunday morning”. These recordings were frequently played over the National Radio Station for many years. At various times Allan took his choir on visits to other parishes and there were various occasions when he took his choir to sing at Evensong Services in Holy Trinity Cathedral when their choir were having holiday breaks.

“Allan was President of the Auckland Organists Association for the longest consecutive term, being 6 years (1983 to 1988).

“When he left college Allan took up an apprenticeship with George Croft and Sons who were one of the leading organ builders in New Zealand for many years. At the conclusion of his apprenticeship Allan continued working for this firm for many years and he built up a reputation as an expert organ builder.

“In a memo issued by the Auckland City Council Libraries section dated 6th November 1985 there was a piece entitled “ Organ Restoration Project” It was stated that L.C. M. Saunders ( Music Master, Music Director and Organist at Kings College ) had written in the New Zealand Herald ( at the time he was their very able Music Reporter ) that a public appeal was about to be launched to raise the money needed for the restoration of the organ at St Mary’s Parnell. Included with that was a portrait of the organ builder Allan Minifie and four other organists pictured with some of the pipes that were destined for this organ. The firm George Croft and Son Ltd were obviously going to be involved with this project.

“In records held by the National Library of New Zealand there is a report dated 28th April 1987 which states that Allan Minifie “is renovating and restoring the 1921 George Croft organ in Trinity Methodist Church in Kingsland Auckland”.

“The New Zealand Organ Preservation Trust ( Inc. ) published a gazetteer of New Zealand pipe organs- North Island which was dated 27th May 2007. The list provided a brief record of all the known pipe organs in the North Island both past and present.

“Details of the summary specifications were provided by a number of enthusiasts who freely supplied information from their own collections of specifications. It was stated that Allan Minifie, with his vast knowledge of North Island organs, gained with the organ building firm of George Croft & Son Ltd, contributed a large number of specifications and other details of the instruments to be included.

“Allan eventually started up his own organ building company. It was called the A1 Organ Builders Limited. In 1991 a new company was registered entitled A1 Organ Builders ( 1991 ) Limited. This company commenced business on 3rd July 1991. It’s registered address was 25 Innesfree Drive, Ellerslie, Auckland which was and still is the family home. This company was dissolved on 10th January 2009.

“There is a report in “Choral Music News” held by the National Library of New Zealand dated 1999. It was headed “Celebration – Allan Minifie: 30 years of Service as Director of Music at St Peter’s Anglican Church Takapuna”. (Note: A full report also appeared in the local North Shore Times which covered the same event.) The report held by the National Library was prepared by Robert S Mills. The article also referred to recordings that had been made of choir and organ music at St Peter’s during the 1970’s to 1990’s Ref: MSC-021845. It was stated that Allan Minifie was a dedicated organist and choirmaster, now retired, of some distinction. It was further stated that the tape would have been made by a local parishioner for distribution.

“After his very long period of service ended at St Peter’s, Allan became a part time organist in other Parishes. In the weekly Newsletter issued by the Anglican Parish of Kohimarama dated 16th November 2014 there was a note which read as follows: “If you would like to be part of an “
‘All Comers’ Choir to help celebrate the life of the composer John Yolland on the 30th November 2014 and also be part of our Nine Lessons and Carols Service on 21st December 2014, please contact Allan Minifie.”

“Allan had an abiding love of music and he always tried his best to attend all the important church music and organ events that occurred from time to time.

“Over the years Allan had recurring problems that affected his health to a certain extent but this never seemed to hold him back in creating the Church music that he loved so much.

“We extend to his wife Fran and his children and family members our deep sympathy over Allan’s passing.
“He will long be remembered by many church musicians and choir members with whom he had a close association.”

Barrie Collett

Member of committee
Auckland Organ Association.