My heart will go on

robinMembers of The Wychwood Singers certainly “felt the words” as they sang this evocative song from Titanic to mark their affection for their late Musical Director, Robin Martin-Oliver who very sadly died, after a short illness on 14 August 2018. Long time member, Joanna Van de Poll said,
“Robin meant a lot to us all in the choir. I was hooked after one session, all down to Robin’s innate belief that everyone could sing.”

Robin had a sparkling personality, a great sense of humour and above all he was a kind and considerate man. His enthusiasm for singing was simply contagious. And he had immense passion, being described as a man on a mission when the Witney Gazette interviewed him in 2014. He wanted to turn Witney into a vibrant centre for the arts to match neighbouring towns. “Witney is the only town of any size in Oxfordshire that has nothing. It’s a black hole for the arts!” In 2012 Robin had set up Witney Arts in a bid to increase the arts’ activity in the town.

Robin and his twin Caroline were born into a happy working class family in Manchester in July 1953. Robin was eight years old when he and his brother joined the local church choir. Even at this early age Robin’s voice was outstanding. At University studying music, he developed that rare operatic male vocal discipline known as Countertenor. Following his graduation with honours, and because of this special gift, he was offered a place with The Royal Northern College of Music, where his operatic skills were perfected.

His professional musical career spanned more than 40 years. He performed as a soloist and worked as a Staff Director for major companies including Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne Festival. He worked with some fine directors including Sir Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn. As both a vocal and Stagecraft tutor, he taught on many international courses, working alongside notaries including Sir Peter Pears.

Robin moved to the area nearly 20 years ago and finally settled at Ascott in 2011. He passionately promoted choral singing for fun and general wellbeing and in addition to The Wychwood Singers, directed Community Choirs in Bampton and Great Tew. He also ran regular vocal workshops for a whole range of abilities as well as his arts schools for youngsters.

Such a great loss for a lovely man and true friend to all members of the choir. He is irreplaceable but Robin would have wanted us to go on, he put so much into developing the Wychwood Singers. And we shall! We will be singing our hearts out every Tuesday in his honour.

John Whittle

October – November 2018