The Music for All @ SMSG team is very sad at the loss this week of Lesley Smart to pancreatic cancer.
Lesley joined our team as an instigator and main organiser, with Jane Wolfson, of our highly popular Come & Sing Days. As Jane has said “I don’t think we would have started the Come & Sing Days without Lesley wanting to do a Messiah”. The first Come & Sing Day in 2013 was in fact the Rutter Requiem and Lesley got stuck into a considerable amount of admin to make sure it went well so we could do Messiah in 2014. It was during the preparation and singer bookings for Messiah that Lesley was diagnosed with cancer, which she faced with characteristic verve and determination, continuing to live life to the full. She got her wish to sing Messiah in the Come & Sing Day 2014 with 160 other singers (conducted by James Wharton). We all admired her calmness and enthusiasm when facing crowds of excited people arriving to collect their scores, find their places, and find out about the day; she was unflappable and friendly which made it easier for everyone to enjoy themselves.
In 2015 Lesley was disappointed that the organ was not ready for the choral classics day we’d planned, but pleased that James Wharton suggested one of her favourites, the Faure Requiem instead. Using Eventbrite for the Faure Requiem Come & Sing Day reduced the admin load but there were still scores to source, place labels to make, singers to greet, and evaluation to do – all of which Lesley did, as well as enjoying singing Faure on the day. She had already started planning, with Jane and James, the 2016 Come & Sing Day, which will feature the restored Willis pipe organ, when her health rapidly declined and she died in Milton Keynes hospital on 9th March.
Lesley Smart sang with the OU Choir in the earlier years (she was a member of the Science Faculty at the University) and was also in MK Chorale for some years. Bill Strang, OU Choir conductor, called her “a very positive and optimistic supporter of music-making, especially choral singing, in Milton Keynes”.
We are dedicating our 2016 Come & Sing Day to Lesley Smart with gratitude and affection for her wonderful contribution to choral singing in our community and the Willis organ restoration project. Rest in Peace Lesley.