A very special lady who’s been tinkling the ivories for Vauxhall Male Voice Choir for more than two decades was treated to a surprise party last week.
Octogenarian Josie Bass arrived at St Margaret’s Methodist Church, Biscot Mill, in full choir uniform expecting to take part in a performance.
But instead she was met by Vauxhall Motors communications director Denis Chick who presented her with an enscribed table plaque, a bouquet of her favourite carnations and a certificate of appreciation for 20 years’ loyal service.
Josie – a distant relative of Antarctic explorer Sir Earnest Shackleton – was tickled pink, even though she says modestly: “I can’t see why they did it, but it was lovely.”
The 88-year-old thinks of choir members as family and says they’ve always looked after her, as well as introducing her to Continental travel: “I’ve been to Germany and France with them – places I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise.”
And when she was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus 17 years ago, VMVC members walked down the road from their practice to serenade her back to health.
Josie, who was born in Clarendon Road, started playing the piano at the tender age of seven. She’s spent most of her life in a house in Montrose Avenue that was built by her father in the early 1900s. He also built the house next door for his wife’s sister.
Josie says: “Mummy’s name was Shackleton and Grandpa Shackleton was a cousin of Sir Earnest. I only met him once. He was a small man, like Grandpa. He was on his way to the South Pole, where he was subsequently buried after collapsing and dying there.”
She went to Avery Hill College, University of London, where she performed for Princess Margaret. When she graduated, she was appointed head of music at Denbigh Junior School. She subsequently worked at Bushmead School and took early retirement to look after her mother.
She also played the piano and ran the choir at St Margaret’s for many years.
Josie describes herself as a fan of the ‘great masters’ – Bach, Beethoven and Chopin – and still teaches privately.
She’s devoted to her white toy poodle dogs, Lalula and Crystal.
“They’re the smallest dogs you can have,” she explains. “But they sound like Alsatians when they bark. I wouldn’t be without them.”
Josie first became involved with Vauxhall Male Voice Choir when she joined as a temporary rehearsal pianist, supposedly for three months. Now she’s a life member who holds a special place in members’ hearts.
Spokesman Peter Wall said: “She’s a truly wonderful lady and her cheerfulness is infectious.”