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      Happy 70th Birthday

    Andrew Barry Mackay


1950-53 Norwich



Andrew Mackay was born at home in West Parade, Norwich on 19th April 1952. The decision to be born in Norfolk was a cunning one, as he wished to slip in and out of the world unnoticed, and Norfolk is a very long way from everywhere else, and famous only for sugar beet and Admiral Nelson. In fact if you drive from here to Norwich and make the mistake of taking the southbound M25 in the rush hour you will drive for three hours and then see a sign on the M11 saying "Welcome to Suffolk", Norwich still being 80 miles away.

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On holiday in France, Le Lavandou/St Tropez, 1956.

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Andrew's father, Barry Mackay


1953-56  Cambridge and Farnborough


Andrew's family moved shortly afterwards to Cambridge, where his father trained for ordination and subsequently became chaplain of Ridley Hall, a theological college in a quiet corner of the city, and then fellow and chaplain of Selwyn. Andrew's happy childhood was cut short when, while he was still at prep school (St John's), his parents both found themselves under a beautiful stone carved by the famous sculptor David Kindersley, on the left just after the M11 as you drive towards Barton on the A603 (turn left opposite the rifle range). Losing both parents so early, Andrew soon found Wilde a favourite playwright; so began a dream of writing plays himself.

St. John's College Prep School.

1963-70 Cambridge (St John’s) and Uppingham 


This lack of parental guidance through the whole of his teens explains why Andrew failed to follow a predictable life pattern, not even one normal for Norfolk. At Uppingham he did a great deal of woodwork, and subsequently built a full-sized Trojan horse, and the bed in which he still sleeps, among many other projects. Academic work was a fairly low priority, as Andrew was so busy acting, singing, and failing to be famous like Stephen Fry who arrived there just as he left; but Homer made a lasting impression, thanks to an inspiring teacher called David Gaine.

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The Trojan Horse

Uppingham School

1970 - 1973 Cambridge – Trinity


Armed only with ABB at A Level, a series of embarrassing failures on the cello, and an ability to sound plausible at interview, Andrew somehow found himself back home in Cambridge, reading Classics at Trinity College. After not only failing a choral scholarship but even being rejected by CUMS (the choir for people who haven't got choral scholarships), Andrew redeemed himself by taking a lead role in Aristophanes' The Birds – in Greek – and thus trod the professional stage for a whole week.


Owing to the kindness of Dr Marlow, who probably felt sorry for him, Andrew found himself as a volunteer, as opposed to a paid choral scholar, in the Trinity Choir, then proudly consisting of tenors and basses only. At this point he discovered by chance that he was an alto by singing Byrd's three-part mass (ATB) with two friends in the excellent acoustics of the college bicycle sheds.

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Trinity College, Cambridge

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Sir David Willcocks


King's College Chapel

Trinity - continued


Obviously, being a countertenor, he now had nowhere to sing, but the Mackays' house in Grange Road happened to be next door to a certain David Willcocks, then organist and director of music of the choir that Andrew had always revered – as a boy he would attend evensongs in King's College Chapel, marvelling at the perfection of the psalm singing. Perhaps, as a next-door neighbour, he would help.


Now came the piece of luck that changed Andrew's life forever. Willcocks did have an alto vacancy in his famous choir, and Andrew wrote to him, but there was no time for a proper audition, and after playing a D and asking Andrew to sing a G sharp Willcocks looked at his watch and said "Oh dear, we'd better get over to the Chapel". It was a men's voices' service, with the altos exposed on top, and the naked terror of being next to proper singers under the intimidatingly beautiful fan vaulting resulted only in a few squeaks, mainly in the wrong place.


After that evensong Andrew walked back down the lane to his own college, miserable, and utterly prostrated by impostor syndrome. Two days later, a Trinity bass who already sang at King's burst into Andrew's Great Court rooms and said "Where were you yesterday? David wants to know why you weren't in evensong". Andrew had got in, but no one had bothered to tell him.

Pangbourne and Salisbury


After Cambridge Andrew taught English at Pangbourne College for five years, then arrived at Salisbury as a lay vicar at the Cathedral under the wonderful Richard Seal. The latter suggested that Andrew should work at a printing press as something to do during the day before evensong, and three years were spent at the guillotine, followed by fifteen years as a motor mechanic. Tallis Services, the garage he founded and ran, is now remembered for the pun rather than for any expertise at welding, spraying, electrics, or removing an engine "a bit quick" as his far more capable assistant Trevor used to say.

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Pangbourne College

Dr. Richard Seal

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Andrew has written the book and lyrics for four shows in collaboration with Philip Lawson, including Magna Cantata, commissioned to celebrate the great document's 800th anniversary, and performed in Salisbury Cathedral by a cast of professionals with hundreds of schoolchildren. Philip, the current conductor of Andrew's old choir The Romsey Singers, now shares the conducting of the Farrants with Andrew.

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Philip Lawson

Magna Cantata July 2015

Andrew in his beloved Cornwall at St. Agnes Head overlooking the Bawden Rocks also known as 'The Cow and Calf Islands'.

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