Gillian and Ken Irvine took on the popular events at St George’s United Reformed Church from the Greater Morpeth Development Trust and have been running them independently with the support of the church for 16 years.
They have been able to attract musicians from the Royal Northern Sinfonia, English National Opera and Northern Opera, and also students from prestigious schools such as the Royal Academy of Music. The average audience is about 120 people.
The final concert they organised took place on May 4. The performers were Rachel Jeffers (flute), Jessica Graham (violin) and David Murray (piano).
Afterwards, the couple were presented with a bouquet of flowers.
Gillian and Ken said: “We were quite overwhelmed by the comments and good wishes. We always knew that the lunchtime concerts were well received, but this confirmation was more than we could ever have anticipated.
“So many wonderful cards, compliments and good wishes from people who we now think of as friends. We are grateful to everyone who has supported the concerts, including those who have voluntarily given their time to serve tea and coffee, organise admissions and set up the church before and tidy up after each concert.
“The strong turnouts have allowed us to maintain a healthy bank balance, which has enabled us to invite quality musicians to perform, and we have been able to keep admission charges to a minimum.
“This year we will be 90 (Ken) and 80 (Gillian) and we feel that as the organisation and provision of these events becomes more onerous, we would like to ‘quit whilst we are winning’. As many of us know, with age there comes certain restrictions.
“We still intend, where possible, to organise one-off evening concerts at St George’s – an example of which is the forthcoming Jubilee Concert with Bradley Creswick on June 10.”
David Murray, who has performed at these concerts over a number of years, said: “I have often told my colleagues that if they want to see a model example of how to run a concert series serving a local community, this one run by Gillian and Ken is the perfect model.
“It is a local treasure. It ticks all the boxes.”