The Rev’d Canon Alan Luff RIP

Dear Hymn Society Friends,

I very much regret that I have to inform you of the death of one of our three Honorary Vice Presidents, the Revd Canon Alan Luff. Alan died on Thursday evening. It does appear at this stage that his death was not Coronavirus-related, which may in some ways be comforting but it does not mitigate the loss which will be being felt by his wife, Enid, and the rest of the family, and which many of us, in small measure, feel.

Alan has been an irreplaceable presence in The Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland over the last fifty years. He served as Secretary of the Society from 1972-1987; this was followed by a period of office as Chairman of the Society from 1987-1993, thereafter he served as Executive Vice President until 2014, when he felt that the impediments of age required him to relinquish that position. He was subsequently made one of our Hon. Vice Presidents. Hymns, hymnody, the use of hymns in Worship, The Hymn Society and furthering its aims have surely been Alan’s enthusiasm and passion and ever remained close to his heart. He was a writer of many hymns and a number of hymn tunes. He was an eminent liturgist and, beyond the Society, his offices included Precentor of Manchester Cathedral (1962-1969) and Precentor of Westminster Abbey (1979-1992).

Internationally, Alan served for many years on the board of the Internationale Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Hymnologie (IAH) and, more latterly, as a vice president of IAH, where he fostered many friendships and represented our interests there.

Alan has contributed many articles and reviews to the Bulletin which will remain an enduring academic resource and some will recall the occasion at the 1995 Birmingham Conference when the opening lecturer failed to appear and Alan gave an impromptu entire lecture, without any notes, on Welsh Carols – quite extraordinary. That same year Alan also presented our Festival of Hymns in Birmingham Cathedral.

In this time of lockdown, this morning’s Worship on BBC1 came, appropriately, from St David’s Cathedral. The opening hymn was For all the saints who from their labours rest.

But lo, their breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array:
the King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia.

The other hymns were How shall I sing that majesty which angels do admire, Love divine, all loves excelling, and Alleluia, sing to Jesus. Together, they expressed a moving tribute to a great and lovely man.

One could say much more, and that will be done in due course, but in the meantime we nurse our sense of profound loss with much thanksgiving for sharing with Alan as a friend and colleague and benefiting from his wit and wisdom in so many ways. Our thoughts and prayers are with Enid and the rest of the family. May Alan rest in peace and rise in glory, and light perpetual shine upon him.

Revd Robert A. Canham
Secretary, The Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland