Crowborough organist retires after 51 years at Withyham church
A DEVOTED organist and choirmaster, who has served at a Withyham church for more than half a century, was retiring on Sunday.
During his 51 years at St Michael and All Angels Church, Crowborough's Frank Sellens, who celebrated his 88th birthday on Friday, has rarely missed a Sunday.
For many years the choir has sung Choral Matins and Choral Evensong every Sunday throughout the year.
Rector Adrian Leak said Mr Sellens, of Pilmer Road, had made a huge contribution to the church.
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"He has built up and sustained a choral tradition which would be the envy of any village church in the land," he said.
"He served under four successive rectors, all of whom had and have the highest regard for him as a musician and a colleague."
Mr Leak said Mr Sellens did not believe in releasing the choir or himself from Sunday duties even for the summer holidays.
"Even when the road was closed, as it was at Lye Green one Sunday morning a year or so ago, he managed to get to church to play for the Sunday services," said Mr Leak.
"I never understood how he did it, but I believe he drove halfway round East Sussex and across the Ashdown Forest to get from Crowborough to Withyham and then was very cross with himself because he was three minutes late."
It was in 1961 when Frank was invited to join St Michael's as an organist by his good friend Peter Scott, who was the rector of the church.
After some thought Mr Sellens, who was working at the Parker Memorial Congregational Church in Crowborough at the time, agreed.
He has recalled some of the highlights of his tenure when he conducted the choir at some notable venues.
"We have sung evensong at Chichester and Guildford cathedrals and it was a particularly proud moment when we sang at St George's Chapel at Windsor," he said.
Mr Sellens holds the Archbishop's Certificate in Church Music which is presented yearly by the Guild of Church Musicians, to encourage all musicians within the church, whether amateur or professional, to foster the highest attainable standards of music in worshipping.
He is also a fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians and then became vice-president.
Mr Sellens said he would miss his duties but wasn't completely leaving.
"I have always said the choir was a family and my two daughters were Withyham choristers," he said.
"We have had a lot of fun together and I am going to miss it all after 51 years but will be singing in the choir with the tenors."
On Sunday after the 11am service there was to be a presentation to Mr Sellens and a toast to his health.