A Tribute to George Hartley (Tenor)
Updated: Feb 2
21.05.1933 – 25.01.2021
Like so many of us, George was not a native-born Cornishman. But once introduced to the County, he took it into his heart. Born in Yorkshire, his family moved to Nottinghamshire while he was still an infant, and George grew up facing a future 'down the mines' like his recently deceased father – he had added a year to his age to allow him to do so, and so bring in a wage. He was a keen sportsman, and enthusiastically took part in almost any team sport, but particularly soccer. Cycling was his major recreation, and adventurous George even enjoyed a cycling holiday in France with his pal, quite a feat in those far off days..
He arrived in Bodmin in 1956, and no longer in a reserved occupation, the Army soon came calling, and he was pleased – and ever after proud - to have served in the good old DCLI, mostly in Germany. Following de-mob, he tried a selection of employments, until he found his vocation as a Licensee, where together with Sheila, he took over one of Bodmin's oldest pubs, the 'George and Dragon' in St. Nicholas Street. He and Sheila ran it successfully as an old-fashioned 'family' pub, although the locals often nudged elbows when talking of George and THE DRAGON, I really can't think why!
George and Sheila have been together for 67 happy years, and through their children Teresa and Kevin, George has left behind an extensive family to mourn him, and to support Sheila.
But of course, we really know him as a staunch and valuable member of the tenor section in the Loveny Choir, which he joined, not quite as a Founder Member, but could only have missed being so by a few weeks. He had total recall of those very early days, and when pressed, could give chapter and verse on why this or that had happened; a pity really that it had never been written down, for sadly all those little interesting details are now lost for ever. He supported the Choir in all it's events, including the social and fund-raising efforts arranged by our ever faithful Loveny Ladies, of which Sheila was a leading member. When something needed doing, and volunteers were slow in coming forward, George could be relied upon to step up and 'have ago.' As a Social Secretary, he arranged many fine and varied outings for the Choir, and he went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that any coach hired, would get as close as possible to every chorister's home. He stepped in to take over the weekly 'draw,' a thankless task, which he carried out meticulously
George Hartley, however, will forever be remembered by those who sang in Loveny in his day, simply for one song which he made his own – Alexandrov's thrilling and evocative arrangement of “The Silver Birch.” There was always a visible stir when he stood up to take the solo lead in this vigorous Russian folk song, and heads would crane to watch him. For George unconsciously struck a pose, with arms outstretched downward, as if welcoming a child for a hug, and then sang his solo with his eyes firmly shut tight!
Now, as a chorister, you could never pick out George's voice when singing in his section, but as a soloist, wow! The vocal range he could call upon was awesome. From full-on pulsating power, to barely audible pianissimo, he had it all – George, Mr Silver Birch, you were simply uniquely phenomenal.
Sadly, of course, following a few years back in Nottinghamshire, George returned to Bodmin with all the signs of oncoming dementia, and although he tried to fit in with Loveny again, he soon felt he had to hand in his music, and stand down. Eventually George became a resident in a Bodmin Nursing Home, where he passed away on Monday 25th January – the Silver Birch had finally been felled
Photo taken in Quimperle, Brittany