Obituary writer Donna-Louise Bishop has trawled the shelves of the Eastern Daily Press archives and is remembering Henry Brian Runnett.   

In the fourth instalment of a limited series looking back at some of Norfolk's most noted and notable, we look at the life of the internally renowned musician who died tragically aged 35. 

Organist and master of the choristers at Norwich Cathedral, he died when his car was involved in a three-vehicle crash in Staffordshire on August 19, 1970. 

Eastern Daily Press: Brian Runnett who died in August 1970

He had been driving to see his parents following a recital he had just given at Westminster Abbey, London. 

Shattering Loss to Music (first published on August 21, 1970)  

The death of Mr. Brian Runnett, organist of Norwich Cathedral, leaves a gap which Norwich and Britain will find difficult to fill. 

For he was, as his friend and colleague Mr. Philip Ledger said last night, in the first flight of organists, being known and respected internationally. Moreover he was of late developing his talents as a conductor. 

Mr. Runnett, a bachelor in his mid-thirties, came to Norwich four years ago from Manchester University, where he had been lecturer in music and University Organist. 

A particular Jove of cathedral music attracted him to Norwich, together with the fact that he was anxious to return to the cathedral life he had come to know as an assistant organist at Chester Cathedral. 

An added incentive was that it promised close ties with the University of East Anglia, which he developed in association with Mr. Ledger, who is Dean of the U.E.As School of Fine Arts and Music. 

Born at Tyldesley, Lancashire, Brian Runnett was devoted to music from his earliest childhood. From the age of five there was never any question in his mind but that he would become a professional musician. 

He was assistant organist at Chester, 1955-60, and a teacher at the Queen’s School, Chester. When he left this post and until he started lecturing in Manchester in 1963, he was organ student at St. John’s College, Cambridge. 

Eastern Daily Press: The EDP report on Brian Runnett

He was the organist for the records made by the famous of choir of St. John’s, and continued to return to play for them when they recorded.  

He was in constant demand not only as a recitalist and broadcaster but also as a recording artist. He made recordings from the organ at Norwich Cathedral and also with the choir 
Earlier this year he was in a new recording of the “Messiah”, with Joan Sutherland as one of the soloists. In this he played both organ and harpsichord — “running from one to the other in my stockinged feet in the middle of a take.” 
His talents as a choir trainer were recognised abroad as well as in this country. Two years ago he spent two months in the United States training the Berkshire Boys’ Choir and conducting them on a tour of 21 concerts. 
Only a month ago, he succeeded Antony Hopkins, the composer and broadcaster, as conductor of Norwich Philharmonic Society, 
To the Norwich Triennial Festival, which takes place in October, his death has come as a shattering blow. The triumvirate of Runnett, Hopkins and Ledger were the musical advisers and the inspiration behind the programme for October, in which each was to play a major role. 
Last night Mr. Ledger said he was devastated by the news of Mr. Runnett’s death. “But I am sure it would be his wish that the Triennial Festival should continue in the form that he, Antony Hopkins and I planned it together.” 

Eastern Daily Press:

Mrs. Miriam Cannell, Triennial Festival organiser, said Mr. Runnett’s death had robbed Norwich of one of the foremost organists in the country and Europe. 
Mr. Gordon Tilsley, chairman of the Triennial, described Runnett as a man “of great personal charm and modesty which put all amateurs at their ease.” 

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