Members of Russell Male Choir past and present gather around a photo of Neville Brown and a cup of his favourite beverage. Van Dusen photo

METCALFE – Burly, bearded Neville Brown of Embrun who passed at 81 was given a rousing musical send-off last Saturday at Daley Family Funeral Home on Highway 31… just the way he would have wanted it.

Members past and present of the Russell Male Choir came together at the service to sing four of their former director’s favourite songs. Described as meticulous about organizing performances, Brown guided the choir for about a decade at a time when membership reached as high as 20.

The songs chosen were “Amazing Grace,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “A Wonderful Time up There” and “Blessed Assurance.” The service was led by Rev. Steven Michel; Ken Anderson shared memories of his friendship with Brown, mostly of a musical variety. Brown is survived by wife Betty, and daughters Melody Anne, Jennifer Jo and Roberta Lynn.

According to family and friends, there were three guiding lights for the deceased: Family, faith and music. Not a day went by that he wasn’t playing at least one instrument and practicing songs either for the choir or other musical ventures in which he was involved.

Also keenly interested in gardening and wood­working, Brown played the piano, organ, accordion, guitar, harmonica and – lest we forget – the spoons…making it clear he had a good dose of whimsy in him.

Current choir member Gerry Lafontaine, who was also a member under Brown, said the deceased was a great confidence builder when it came to his singing. Lafontaine proudly sports a pair of suspenders decorated with musical symbols which were a gift from Brown. Also a member under Brown and still active in the choir, Tom Hay recalled the late director’s organizational abilities and determination to make every performance perfect.

Choir coordinator Harry Baker explained that one of the perks of membership is that upon request the group will sing at the funerals of past members.

Hopefully, some suggested, Brown is now enjoying his time beyond this earth in a manner expressed in “A Wonderful Time up There”: “Well, now, everybody’s gonna have religion and glory, everybody’s gonna be singing that story, everybody’s gonna have a wonderful time up there, oh, glory hallejah!”