Our dear Alison - Martin's wife, Hannah's Mum
One of the last photos of Alison, taken at Gordon and Barbara's wedding September 20th 2008.
Morse, musician and teacher, died on the 25th October 2008 at the age of 54 after a short but spirited fight with cancer.
She was Director of Music at St Luke’s Church, Burton Stone Lane, York, and taught music and led choirs and workshops in a number of schools and centres for those with disabilities and learning difficulties in the York area over nearly thirty years (details below).
Her unique gift to a host of people of all ages and abilities was an inspiring and endearing combination of sheer energetic musical ability with an innate conviction that anyone could do anything.
Although occasionally challenging, Alison’s influence never failed to draw out unsuspected achievements even from those who regarded themselves (or were regarded by others) as musically hopeless.
Her talent for hilarity and – in public at least – her extraordinary patience came together as she cajoled and encouraged the reluctant and the reticent, occasionally delivering a superb dig-in-the-ribs at just the right moment.
Children, adolescents and adults of all abilities discovered in Alison someone able to engage with them and gently encourage them to exceed their own expectations of themselves.
At once determined and affirming, she built and grew choirs, bands, an amateur theatrical group – and indeed the whole membership of St Luke’s Church – and bestowed on them an enlarged sense of their own ability and worth.
In every group, Alison worked hard to include those of all levels of ability, experience and confidence, engendering a powerful sense of belonging for many.
It was clear that belonging was a central priority for Alison: aside from the ceaseless current of music, Alison’s membership of St Luke’s was committed and warm.
Always a social and sociable animal, she would be the life and soul of any party without necessarily being the focus of attention, and her enjoyment was (like everything else she did) infectious and uplifting.
Tiny in stature but large in personality, Alison will be remembered with a smile as well as many tears – her whole body swaying as she bent over a keyboard; standing hands-on-hips haranguing a bunch of hapless would-be performers; earnestly discussing the Guardian crossword or the latest novel or play; philosophising over a glass or two of wine.
She leaves her husband, Martin; her daughter, Hannah; and a host of lives touched and enhanced by her talent, energy and optimism.
Alison Morse was born Alison Susan Margaret Handley in 1954 in Roslin near Edinburgh and grew up in Stourport, Worcestershire.
After studying at the Royal Academy of Music she trained to teach and arrived in York at the age of 26 as Head of Music at Burnholme School in 1980.
There she staged musical shows including ‘Calamity Jane’ and an Edwardian Music Hall – and in August 1981 married science teacher Martin Morse. Their daughter, Hannah, was born in October 1982.
Alison taught music at Easingwold School for two periods in the 1980s (founding the school’s still-flourishing Concert Band) and the family settled in Burton Stone Lane where her association with St Luke’s Church began.
Alison discovered a love for teaching people with disabilities, and during the 1990s and 2000s she developed a new career running music workshops and choirs at The Old Boot Shop for United Response in Easingwold, Alne Hall Cheshire Home, Heworth Community Centre and Yearsley Bridge Day Centre. She ran the Clifton Green School Choir for several years.
She was a home tutor for the City of York for many years, teaching various subjects to those unable to participate in or excluded from school life.
In her spare time she was the impetus for launching what became the Sunnydene Players, the musical drama group at St Luke’s Church which has staged an annual performance for 21 years, beginning with a Victorian Music Hall in 1988 and culminating in “Return to the Forbidden Planet” in 2008.
In the mid 1990s Alison became Musical Director at St Luke’s Church, playing organ and piano for two Sunday Services each week, running three choirs and preparing children for the Dean’s and Archbishop’s Awards of the Royal School of Church Music.
Under her guidance, St Luke’s was invited by Archbishop of York David Hope to lead modern worship songs alongside the Minster Choir before and during his farewell service at York Minster in 2005, and the following year she directed St Luke’s Choir at the annual York Community Carol Concert at the Barbican Centre.
Alison’s repertoire included coaching and leading St Luke’s performers in mediaeval songs and chants for the revived York Waggon Plays in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Alison's funeral took place at St Luke’s Church, Burton Stone Lane, York , at 12.00 noon on Monday 3rd November