On Saturday, 30th November I was honoured to be asked to lead the service and give the address at the Memorial Service for the Rev Tom Banham at First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast. Tom was the minister of First Church from 1975 until his retirement in 1993 and was senior minister from then until his death in August 2019.
With Rev Simon Henning and Rev Robert McKee (Photo: Mark Adair)
It was a very impressive service indeed with contributions from Rev Simon Henning, Dr Pamela Topping, the church secretary, who read So Many Different Lengths of Time by Brian Patten, and Mark Adair who spoke warmly of his memories of Tom and read Praise of a Man by Norman McCaig.
The service was particularly notable for its musical contributions under the leadership of the church’s Director of Music, Richard Yarr. Tanya Houghton, the newly appointed Musician in Residence, played two pieces on the harp and the eight Banham Scholars gave their first ever public performance. The organist was Nigel McClintock.
Tanya Houghton with the Banham Scholars and Richard Yarr (Photo: Mark Adair)
Before he died Tom endowed the church to enable them to establish a choral scholarship scheme for the church. As a result a group of choral scholars have been formed who, it is planned, will sing once a month at Rosemary Street, as well as on special occasions, and will undertake outreach projects on the church’s behalf. The congregation has named them the Banham Scholars in Tom’s memory.
The Banham Scholars and Richard Yarr (Photo: Mark Adair)
The musical programme in the service comprised pieces which reflected Tom’s own musical interests and some of his favourite pieces:
Church Choir & Banham Scholars: Beethoven – Creation’s Hymn
Tanya Houghton (harp), Musician in Residence, First Church –
Puccini: O Mio Babbino Caro, from Gianni Schicchi (with soprano Mary McCabe)
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
Banham Scholars –
Rutter: The Lord Bless You And Keep You
Handel: Hallelujah Chorus, from Messiah
The Banham Scholars are eight professional singers: two Sopranos: Mary McCabe and Katie Lyons; two Altos: Dawn Burns and Sarah Richmond; two Tenors: Owen Lucas and Mark Tilley; and two Basses: James Cooper and Adam Reaney.
The Church Choir and the Banham Scholars (Photo: Mark Adair)
The hymns were Love divine, all loves excelling, The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended and Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.
The whole occasion was such a fitting tribute to someone who was a major figure in his denomination for so long and who made such a great contribution to society through his ministry and leadership.
Rev Tom Banham 1929 – 2019
Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy
Minister, Ballycarry and Raloo 1971 – 1975
Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Belfast 1975 – 1993, senior minister 1993 – 2019
(Picture taken in 1971)