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Town mourns the death of a musical giant and former mayor

Friday, 25th October 2013.

Haverhill has been mourning the passing of a councillor, former mayor and one of the central figures in the musical life of the town for half a century.

Cllr Les Ager, who died on Wednesday night, aged 75, was awarded the British Empire Medal in this year's New Year's Honours list for his services to music in the town.

Having been a cornet player in Haverhill Silver Band and then a bandsman in the Army during his National Service, he became conductor of the town's band and led it to considerable competition success in the 1970s and 1980s.

During his time in charge the band worked closely with Haverhill's town-twinning movement as it set up links with Ehringshausen in Germany, playing at the inaugural events in both towns, and making many subsequent visits

The baton with the band has now passed to his son Mark who has led it on to the premier ranks nationally.

In 1969 he played the trumpet in the orchestra for The Mikado, the first production of a newly-formed group, Haverhill and District Operatic Society.

The following year he played a principal role in Iolanthe, and in 1971 took over as musical director when the first one moved away.

It was a role he maintained for most of the next 36 years, conducting 48 musical shows staged at Castle Manor School and then, from 1994 onwards at Haverhill Arts Centre when the group became Centre Stage Company.

He particularly enjoyed his involvement in Centre Stage's moves to involve young people, acting as musical director for a series of youth shows which began with Annie in 1998, and introducing new generations to his love of musical shows.

He led the way in creating one of Haverhill's popular annual events, the Carols For All concert featuring choir, band and organ at the old Independent Church on the weekend before Christmas.

He conducted all the concerts from the inaugural one in 1975 to 2011, as well as various joint concerts which flowed from the idea, some of the joining with stars from Radio Two's Friday Night Is Music Night in Gala Concerts, and more recently in Last Night Of The Proms events to close the Haverhill Festival.

His daughter Karen Chinery has since taken over as musical director of Centre Stage and operatic society concerts, and her children have featured in many productions, Lauren in leading roles on stage and Adam as guitarist in the orchestra, carrying the links into the next generation.

Centre Stage have a production running this week, Return To The Forbiodden Planet, and the cast held a minute's silence on the stage before Thursday's performance.

He became a Haverhill Town Councillor a decade ago and was appointed deputy mayor, but a month into the office, the town mayor, Cllr Ted Trebble, suffered a stroke and Cllr Ager took over the duties for the rest of the year.

He then became mayor in his own right the following year, and was also elected onto St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

Last Christmas he was diagnosed with lymphoma and had been fighting the disease all year.

In January this year he received the BEM in recognition of the enormous contribution to music in the town he had made over so many years.

Haverhill Online News

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