The chorister who moved on………
The chorister who moved on to become a world icon in the field of pop music by Edward Bevin
Back in the 1950s a young St Albans School pupil, with a flair for music (his own words) was one of the keenest trebles in St Albans cathedral choir. He was ‘introduced’ to Bach, and the Edmund Rubbra Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis, which became a fascination. And he was excited to be asked to turn the pages for the then Master of the Music, Peter Hurford and would very occasionally scamper up the steps of the spiral staircase that leads to the Harrison and Harrison and stand alongside the organist, poised at the pages. When his throaty treble voice broke, he thought his days as a chorister were over, but Peter Hurford had other ideas and the chorister with a mass of thick hair went on to sing as an alto.
Rodney T Argent (Rod) cherishes these moments, perhaps more than most in what has become a musical career which has rocketed him and his famous, iconic band The Zombies into the world-wide fame they enjoy today.
From his home in a leafy village near the Hampshire/West Sussex border, he speaks enthusiastically about his boyhood in the cathedral. ‘I’d hardly ever heard of Bach until one day we started to rehearse for the St Matthew Passion and when the choir performed it, it was a wonderful feeling and I’ve never forgotten it, nor ever will. That was the start of my musical career, for which I remain eternally grateful,’ he told me. ‘It certainly gave me a foundation and breadth of musical experience that I believe has benefited me throughout a lifetime’s career in music.’
Last year, he and his musical colleague Colin Blunstone brought The Zombies to the cathedral in front of a vast audience. This is what Rod said in his programme notes that evening:
‘I really feel that being part of a good church choir is the most immersive education, harmonically and melodically, that you can have.’
He and Cathy were married in the cathedral in 1972. ‘The choir sang and Peter Hurford played the organ. It was obviously a special day for us, forever etched in our memory,’ he told me. They have two adult children, Elesa and Mark.
Now in his early seventies, Rod’s workload is intense. He takes the band on seemingly endless journeys and particularly to the United States where millions of fans from Alabama to Arkansas, California to Connecticut and New York to New Mexico, turn out to see the performers and hear the great sound they create. As a composer and keyboard player he and his band remain in terrific demand. The band’s song She’s not There is played millions of times daily around the world. It was first performed in 1964.
Despite his phenomenal success, Rod, remains modest and unassuming. ‘There’s so much of St Albans inside me’ he added, contentedly.