The parish church community of North Walsham is in shock at the unexpected death of its dedicated and long-serving choirmaster and organist while on his first trip abroad.

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Roger Buck, who recently celebrated 40 years’ service at St Nicholas’ Church, died suddenly, aged 64, while on holiday in the former Soviet state of Georgia.

He was there with his sister Mary Miles, getting to know the area where he hoped to return in August to play piano at his niece’s wedding.

His death has left medieval St Nicholas without one of its greatest admirers, most knowledgeable historians and dedicated musicians.

Mr Buck was also a well-respected member of the town’s business community, owning a printing firm and shop for about 30 years.

Born above his grandmother’s sweet shop on the town’s Vicarage Street, Mr Buck’s unbroken association with the church choir began when he joined it as a seven-year-old chorister.

After leaving school he was apprenticed for a time to an organ builder in Trunch and took piano lessons at about the same time.

He learned to play the organ under his mentor, St Nicholas’ organist and choirmaster Henry Wright, who he succeeded in 1972.

Rev Canon Derek Earis, Vicar of North Walsham, said Mr Buck’s whole life had been the church and he had worked tirelessly for it.

“He gave boys confidence to sing and enjoy it and he delighted in a traditional men and boys’ church choir. He was particularly pleased at gaining many promising new boys recently and having more time in his retirement to train them.

“We have all been impressed with the quality of the choir of late and are determined to continue and build on his heritage,” said Canon Earis.

In 2008 Mr Buck spearheaded a successful £110,000 fund-raising drive to refurbish the church organ, organising events including a 24-hour choral chant marathon, and sponsor-a-pipe appeal.

He organised a series of musical events to celebrate the work’s completion in 2010.

A man of varied talents, he also made church vestments, helped care for those belonging to St Nicholas and played a prominent role in organising two successful vestment exhibitions at the church.

Many years ago Mr Buck bought a small printing machine to produce literature for the church. The venture expanded as he took orders for wedding invitations and he eventually opened a shop at the top of Vicarage Street.

Further expansion followed when he opened a printing works on the town’s industrial estate and opened a shop in Market Place, employing about six people.

He closed the works just before Christmas and began semi-retirement. His sister hopes the shop will continue trading.

Mr Buck, who was also a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, had hoped to have more time to devote to helping catalogue music in Norwich for the Royal School of Church Music, and to use his extensive local knowledge to help at North Walsham’s information office.

He helped organise the annual choral festival at Norwich Cathedral and a glowing tribute to his memory was paid during this year’s event, on Sunday June 17,

Mr Buck also leaves a brother, Philip, who runs P & P Autos, on North Walsham’s Midland Road. No funeral arrangements have yet been made.

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