CONSERVATIVE candidate for Hereford Jesse Norman was among around 100 guests who gathered at The Green Dragon last week to wish Rob Strawson well as he retires from The Music Pool, the community music charity he steered to a central position in the county's musical life.

Though, as his former colleague Dennis Schiavon explained in his tribute, The Music Pool was not always on such solid ground.

"Although full of ideas and optimism," he said "it got off to something of a shaky start, mostly with various funding problems, and in 2000 was on the brink of closing down."

"That it didn't, it was down to Rob's steadfast belief in the importance of the work and his tireless efforts to pull together a rescue package with new supporters and funding "and so he became the director".

Since then, having secured funding from, among others The Arts Council and Children in Need, The Music Pool introduced programmes for pre-schoolers, children and young people in school and out, adults and older and retired people.

Among the projects he launched were The Gathering Wave, a coming together of local choirs, which was part of The Three Choirs Festival for 15 years, The Stonemason's tale, a large-scale multi-school project, The Garrick Singers, a choir for retired people and Yam Jams and the Wednesday Club, partnering with ECHO and SCOPE to work with adults with a range of disabilities.

A member of Bandemonium, the open-to-all folk and ceilidh band led by Rob, Jesse Norman put his trumped aside to add to the tributes, presenting Rob with a framed copy of the Hereford Times column in which he praised him for his achievements, saying "He has performed quiet heroics over decades to bring music and joy to people of every age and walk of life."

Recently, coinciding with Rob's retirement, The Music Pool has joined Herefordshire Music Service and Herefordshire Youth Music in Encore Enterprises, taking Rob's legacy into a new chapter.