Farewell to Hethersett Parish Church stalwarts

Rita Berchem and Duncan Pigg (seated front right and second right) with choir members at the end of

Rita Berchem and Duncan Pigg (seated front right and second right) with choir members at the end of the United Benefice Services - Credit: Archant

Two of the best known faces at Hethersett Parish Church are retiring after serving the village's Christian community for more than 64 years between them.

Rita Berchem and Duncan Pigg with their celebration cake.

Rita Berchem and Duncan Pigg with their celebration cake. - Credit: Archant

Tributes were paid to choirmaster Duncan Pigg and organist Rita Berchem at two special services held before the church shut down for over two months for emergency repairs to the roof.

Evensong on August 24 concluded with refreshments and a special cake for the pair, which included the words from a well known Abba song Thank You For the Music.

The following Sunday, more tributes were paid at a United Benefice Family Communion Service, when the congregation was augmented by friends from churches in Little and Great Melton.

Mr Pigg is a well-known and loved figure in Hethersett through his connection with Hethersett and Tas Valley Cricket Club - of which he is currently president - and the village pantomime group, which saw him write and produce the first 40 shows from 1970 until 2009.

Rita Berchem and Duncan Pigg's celebration cake.

Rita Berchem and Duncan Pigg's celebration cake. - Credit: Archant

He was awarded the British Empire medal in the 2013 New Year's Honours to mark more than 60 years of service to the community. He has been choirmaster of St Remigius Parish Church for 39 years.

Ms Berchem is retiring after more than 25 years as organist at the church. The parochial church council is currently looking for a replacement. She came to the church after being trained at the Royal Academy of Music.

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Both are now well into their 80s.

'I feel that it is time for somebody else to take over, but I have to say I will miss being organist,' Ms Berchem said.

Mr Pigg added: 'I would like to thank everyone for their support during my time as choirmaster. The choir includes so many good musicians that I wonder how they have put up with me for so long.

'I have always had their support and also the support of the congregation. Church choirs have been a huge part of my life since I was a boy.'

He added that he now hoped to continue as 'an ordinary member of the choir'.

At the United Benefice Service, fulsome tributes were paid to both.

Speaking on behalf of the choir, Douglas Beattie said: 'For over 25 years, Rita has diligently prepared music which has been technically brilliant.

'A quarter of a century of service to the church is remarkable and we would like to put on record our sincere appreciation.

'Both Rita and Duncan have become part of the history of our church.'

In addition to momentoes and presents from the choir, Ms Berchem was presented with a loyal service medal from the Royal School of Church Music.

The choir performed a special setting of John Rutter's 'A Clare Benediction' for Mr Pigg, under the guidance of choir member Rachel Mallett.

During the repairs to St Remigius, the 8am Sunday service will take place at the Church Hall, in Henstead Road, Hethersett, and the 10.30am service will be held in Hethersett Junior School.

Do you know someone who deserves recognition for the work they do in the community? Tell the Mercury by calling 01379 651153 or email dma.news@archant.co.uk