People at St Luke’s: James Beck

This single small photograph of Ireland at St Luke’s has huge significance, given the close (and in some cases lifelong) associations of the composer with the people captured in it. This is the fourth in a series of short blogs uncovering the personalities behind the faces.

St Luke's choir whole

James BeckThe heavily whiskered gentleman to the far right of the picture is James Beck.

Beck, of 9 Phillimore Terrace  in South Kensington, was appointed as sidesman in May 1916 following the annual Easter vestry meeting, taking the place of Mr Thorbon . These were difficult times for the church, and every attempt was made to maintain continuity. However, numbers in the choir had diminished because of enlistment, and the previous autumn the rector, Henry Bevan, had alerted the congregation to the fact that several members of the choir were already at the front, going on to say: ‘We are likely soon to lose the services of some of the undermasters of our Boys’ School, and at least ten members of my Bible Class are serving their country’ (letter from the Rector, 29 November 1915, St Luke’s parish records).

In his recollections Charlie Markes names Beck as the organ-blower at the church. Extraordinarily, in this picture Beck must be over 80 years of age, as in 1908 it is decreed that his 79 years ‘sit lightly on his shoulders’  (St Luke’s parish magazine, Sept 1908).

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