If you’ve ever attended St Mary’s Church for whatever reason – Sunday service, Easter, Christmas, Baptism or Wedding – there’s a good chance you’ve seen Bob Pegnall in action. Choirmaster, organist and passionate member of the congregation, Bob has been involved since the age of 11.
“A lady came and knocked at the door,” he remembers, “and said, ’We want you to sing in the choir.’ She was the recruiting officer and once I was in, I absolutely loved it.” In those days, St Mary’s Choir, like most church choirs, was boys only – “only boys on the top line, with men on the tenor and bass and some ladies singing alto” – and Bob duly sang until his voice broke, teaching himself to read music into the bargain and preparing for a lifetime of church music.
Woodbridge born and bred, he also took on the other “M” – for Maths – which after training and later a degree has led to 36 years as a teacher and latterly an exams officer at Copleston High School, Ipswich. “I love teaching Maths, but I don’t love Maths itself,” he says candidly. “I enjoy the challenge of communicating and there’s nothing better than watching the light come on when something sinks in.”
Joining St Mary’s Choir, he remembers, was like joining a club and he’s been inspiring young and old in it ever since. One change, he says, is having girls and, indeed, “Why deny half of God’s creation the chance to sing in a choir?” Sadly, he notes, “Numbers have dipped drastically in the last few years, although at Christmas the choir can increase by 50%. If people are interested in joining, I say come along at 6.30pm on a Thursday evening and give it a try. If someone can hold a melody and hear it, then the rest will come by singing with other people.”
Bob is happy in rather smaller gatherings when he pursues his other favourite pastime of fishing: “I like to go off with a friend and have a chat. We do freshwater fishing at Blaxhall Lake near Snape, and sea fish in the winter at Shingle Street, Dunwich and Aldeburgh.” Fishing, he says, is a time to reflect – a slower beat in the rhythm of a busy but rewarding life.
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