Paul Sartin: A Tribute from the Choir

The Andover Museum Loft Singers were devastated and heartbroken by the sudden and untimely death of Paul Sartin on 14th September 2022. Paul directed the choir for more than 20 years, and became a friend to each of us. We will treasure memories of the musical brilliance and sense of fun that Paul brought to our Thursday evening rehearsals, and remember with pride the performances that he inspired. This is the choir’s tribute to Paul.

Paul became our musical director in 2001, after a year assisting alongside Sarah Morgan, also sadly taken from us far too soon. When we celebrated his 50th birthday last year, Paul joked that he was by far the youngest in the choir when he joined us, and that – 20 years on – it seemed to still be true! Certainly he inspired immense loyalty from choir members, and as the reputation of “Paul’s choir” grew, so did the waiting list of singers eager to join.

The early years of Paul’s time with the choir coincided with the first steps of Belshazzar’s Feast and Dr Faustus. Then in 2004, Paul invited choir members to a secret warm-up gig by a new group who had been rehearsing locally; 11 band members and their instruments squeezed onto the stage at Wherwell village hall and proceeded to blow the roof off! Bellowhead was born. We watched with enormous pride as his success as a performer grew, with eight BBC Radio 2 folk awards, and two silver discs for Bellowhead, alongside award nominations for Belshazzar’s and Faustus.

Bellowhead at Wherwell village hall, 2004

Even as his own performing career took off, Paul never wavered in his attention to developing the Loft Singers. We are a non-auditioning community choir, but he led us in ambitious work with no sense that our individual limitations should prove an obstacle. In 2012 we recorded our second CD, ‘The Bedmaking’, with 15 of Paul’s arrangements; he continued to sell it at his gigs and consequently took great delight in thrusting a £10 note or two into the Treasurer’s hands at Thursday rehearsals. We were guinea pigs for some of the 50 folk songs that Paul skilfully arranged in his Community Choir Collection, published by Faber in 2016.

His growing influence in the folk world opened doors to amazing performing opportunities for the Loft Singers. We appeared several years at Sidmouth folk festival, including on the main stage in 2018 and 2019, performing ‘Living by the Sea’ alongside Faustus, to audiences in excess of 1000. Last year brought new challenges: we sang, in Chilean Spanish, the ‘Misa de los Mineros’ (Miners’ Mass) by Mauricio Venegas-Astorga, in Covent Garden and Whitchurch.

Other tributes have noted that Paul seemed to get as much pleasure from community music-making as his own illustrious performances. In 2008 he was quoted in The Guardian, as Bellowhead prepared to play to 30,000 in Hyde Park, saying: “It doesn’t get better than standing in a pub with people singing all around you, it sends a shiver up your spine.” We were immensely fortunate that Paul chose to spend time with us.

Our relationship with Paul went far and beyond the musical connection. Not only was he an outstanding musician, Paul was a kind, compassionate and generous human being. He brought a sense of fun to rehearsals, but also brought the warmth of his friendship, which was very special to us all.

We miss him more than words can say.