(Eva has had a very distinguished career teaching piano at the Royal Northern College and is still teaching and accompanying countless students at countless Music Festivals and Exams.)
“Now let’s have it with the words.” – this was a typical quip during my weekly rehearsals with the Birkenhead Choral Society conducted by Charles Scarratt, (but of course, the rueful choir had just sung the words!)
My introduction to BCS, in my twenties, was through a lovely Welsh couple, Dilys and Cornelius, whose son I taught and who became treasured life-long friends.
My first most memorable experience of performing an accompaniment at Llangollen International Eisteddfod was the “Eia Mater” chorus from Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater” and that music, together with Charles’ understanding of it were a revelation to me. The experience of accompanying such wonderful sounds and delving deeply into music in Charles’ way – exploring the sonority and the spirituality of the music could not have been more beneficial to a student embarking on a life and career in music.
The fourteen years of my association with a superb choir and a completely natural musician – a man of humility, humour and vision – were the best experience one could have had, not only for the wide variety of the choral repertoire, but for the honour of taking part in such performances as the Mozart and the Faure “Requiem”s – both being quite terrifying to play, (with Charles’ high standards), and yet so unforgettable.
Being a friend and part of BCS did so much to develop my musical experience, to widen my repertoire and to be given privileges such as opportunities to perform solo; on one occasion Charles arranged a complete recital performance for me at St. Mark’s Church, Slatey Road, (sadly no longer in existence).
His humorous asides and comments during practices were a great highlight – Charles’ wit and his ability to make rehearsals lively and exciting were a great perk to the evening and the two hours simply flew by. I remember once (I think that Charles must have been in mischievous mood) when he encouraged me to play vigorously the introduction to the Messiah Chorus “For Unto Us a Son Is Born”, I cast inhibition to the wind and finished to the clatter of the lower front panel of the piano falling off with a bigger noise than I had been able to produce with my neurotic assault on the keyboard! What wonderful, unforgettable years!
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