“The best funeral I’ve ever been to,” said many who attended that of Ray Stanhope at All Saints’ Footscray North on 30 August.

Ray, a lifelong parishioner of All Saints’ and organist/choirmaster for many years, died aged 86, much mourned by his wife Norma, daughters Virginia and Sarah, and grandson Frank.

He had established what is believed to be a world record for continuous membership of a choir, 60 years with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic. More than 40 Phil members gathered to sing parts of the Faure Requiem at his funeral, with the near-obligatory Hallelujah Chorus – Ray had sung in more than 100 Messiahs.

Celebrant at the Requiem Eucharist was the Vicar of Footscray, Fr Chaplain Soma, with many of his Sudanese community present and singing – Ray had been among the welcomers for the Sudanese several years ago and helped raise money for them. The Curate, the Revd Siosifa Tongia, and Tongan parishioners – part of a rich mix at Footscray North along with Indians, Solomon Islanders, Chinese, Filipinos and Indonesians, as well as “Anglos” – helped fill the pews.

Soprano Margaret Haggart, an old friend, sang Schubert’s Ave Maria. Moving eulogies were given by family members, Fr Soma and former Vicar Fr Don Edgar. The music, the obvious affection for Ray Stanhope, the cultural mix – all contributed to making this a truly memorable send-off on a cold day.

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