4:18pm Thursday 29th August 2013
TRIBUTES have been paid to a long-serving chairman of music concert series and community stalwart, who has died aged 75.
Martin Hooper, who played a pivotal role in the monthly Sowerby Music concerts - which attracts international virtuosos to perform in the village near Thirsk - died in the Lambert Memorial Hospital, Sowerby, following a five-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
With funds from the concert series, Mr Hooper founded the Music for Life initiative 13 years ago, after realising small rural schools in North Yorkshire had little access to professional music-making and rarely have trained music teachers.
The scheme has developed into the biggest and most diverse programme for youngsters organised and funded by any music society in the country, with performances and masterclasses for 4,000 pupils at 36 primary schools in the area annually.
The former ICI marketing boss also used bequests and funds from the concerts to set up the Peter Chase Award, which provides financial help to exceptional musicians from the area to attend conservatoires.
Graham Merriam, who co-founded the concert series, said: “Without Martin, I am not sure Sowerby Music would have survived and he certainly upheld the quality of the concerts.”
Mr Merriam said the strength of Mr Hooper’s persuasive powers when seeking volunteers were such that a new verb had been coined in the village.
He said: “To Hooper means to persuade someone to undertake a job that they had no idea they were interested in for the greater common good.”
Eleanor, his wife of 52 years, said he played rugby for several counties when he was younger, but had been dedicated to his children, Christopher and Amanda, five grandchildren and music in his later years.
Mr Hooper also played an instrumental role in Sowerby Parochial Hall winning a lottery grant for a major revamp, performed as a bass-baritone with the Mowbray Singers and was an active member of St Oswald’s Church, Sowerby, where he promoted the choir.
Peter Rush, who founded the volunteer-run Thirsk Tourist Information Centre, said Mr Hooper’s death was a huge loss to the community.
He said: “Martin was an amazing guy, very charismatic, who drew on his marketing strengths for the good of the community.”
A service of thanksgiving for Mr Hooper’s life will be held at St Oswald’s Church on Wednesday, September 11, at noon.
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