ALAN BILGORA (London 9 September 1929 – London 13 May 2021) 

(Alan in front of his record collection, courtesy Larry Lustig)

It  is  my  sad  duty  to  report  the  passing  of  Alan  Bilgora,  one  of  the  best  known  and  respected  collectors. Alan was renowned internationally as  a writer and an expert on the tenor voice.  

He  was  born  in  Newington  Green  in  North  London. It was soon obvious that he had talent as  a singer as, at the age of six, he started singing in  the Dalston Synagogue Choir under the direction  of  the  famous      Cantor  Jacob Kousevitsky.

Following   National   Service   in   the   Royal   Air  Force,   he   joined   the   Toynbee   Opera   Group,  where  he  took  leading  roles  in  works  by  Verdi,  Smetana   and   Mozart.   He   also   specialised   in 
Gilbert  and  Sullivan  roles  as  a  member  of  the  ‘Old   Stepnians’   Operatic   Society.   During   this  period  he  studied  voice  with  Robert  McGovern,  who had been a pupil of Giulio Crimi. 

For almost four decades he was a member of the famous London Jewish Male  Choir,  acting  as  chorister,  Secretary,  Vice  Chairman  and  Chairman.  The  Choir  regularly highlighted the special talents of its members and often featured Alan’s  high-lying  tenor  voice  in  solos.  With  the  Choir  he  toured  many  U.K.  auditoria  and abroad to Israel, the U.S., Germany and Ireland. He participated in concerts 
for the BBC and appeared on television. His voice can also be heard in the Choir  and as a soloist on LPs featuring the Choir. 

Click here to listen to Alan's singing

Alan’s greatest passion was collecting recordings of the tenor voice, both of the  past and present. Over more than 70 years of collecting he gradually put together  one of the most comprehensive collections of 78 rpm recordings of singers of the  past.  His  collecting  covered  not  only  the  grandi  nomi  but  also  less  celebrated  artists. While his peers rejected those singers whose names were unfamiliar, Alan  would  make  a  point of collecting  them.  He derived  particular  pleasure  in  discovering  talented  singers  who  were  not  known  to  others  and  would  share  these  finds  with  friends  during  regular  record  sessions  at  his  home. 

His  great  enthusiasm  remained  undiminished  almost  to  the  end.  Even  in  late  2020,  he  delighted  in  finding  the   only  Fonotipia  recording  of  the  little-known  tenor  Giuseppe Reschiglian.  Alan  was  a  founder  member  of  the  Recorded  Vocal  Art  Society  since  its  inception  in  1953,  and  became  its  Deputy  Chairman.  Members  would  look  forward to his annual talk, which was always an opportunity to hear new voices.  With  his  special  expertise  and  a  singer’s  understanding  of  vocal  technique,  he  could convey the special merits of the recordings and of the singers whom he had  selected to play.  

Alan was also invited on to the board of the Historic Singers Trust, of which he  became Vice Chairman, often contributing notes to its release of Historic Masters  pressings. 

His contributions to The Record Collector were many: comparative notes on a  singer’s  recordings,  biographies,  general  articles  and  record  and  book  reviews. 
One  needs  only  to  search  for  his  name  in  the  Index  to  appreciate  the  sheer  quantity and scope of his writings.  He was my obvious ‘go to’ tenor expert and  any request to write was always graciously  accepted. He was an editor’s dream,  always responding with copy within a few days. 

For his friends, Alan’s  most endearing quality was his great humanity, which  he  selflessly extended to everyone around him. He would always  be the first to  help others, whether it was to offer to drive a guest to the train station or collect a  visitor  from  their  hotel.  For  many  years  he  conveyed  three  or  four  friends  to  RVAS meetings and concerts and would diligently drive them home  again after  the  meeting.  He  unstintingly  gave  of  himself  to  anyone  who  needed  his  help,  often  at great personal  inconvenience. That humanity was  even  manifest  in his  collecting. He once declared that he found something to admire in almost every 
record,  “I  make  a  point  of  looking  for  that  one  special  note,  that  memorable  phrase in every disc.” 

Alan  contributed  so much  to  our collecting  hobby  and  helped  shape  its  evolution  and  direction.  I am sure that his many friends will join me in expressing sincere condolences to his wife Shirley and his three daughters Ema,  Kathryn and Judy. He will be much missed and the collecting world will be the  poorer for his passing. 

Larry Lustig