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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Robert Scandrett—Another passing

Robert Scandrett died on Sunday of a heart valve failure. Bob was hugely influential to a large number of conductors and singers throughout the Northwest and beyond, and will be greatly missed.

Bob was a wonderful musician, extraordinary pianist, and someone whose interests were far broader than just music, from a wide range of literature and history to great food.

He had a great career with a long tenure at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle (building an unrivaled program at the time) followed by an equally long tenure at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, where he influenced multiple generations of students. His Ph.D. was in musicology and his dissertation was an edition of the many anthems of William Croft in multiple volumes (I remember looking through them when an undergrad at the University of Washington and asking Bob for a recommendation for some Croft anthems to perform—he generously gave me several editions to use). He later put this skill to good use in editing a number of works by Domenico Scarlatti for Carus Verlag. He conducted other church choirs (University Congregational after his retirement), community choruses (the Whatcom County Chorale), and the Seattle Symphony Chorus for 12 years (I was lucky enough to follow him there). He was an active pianist and I remember a wonderful performance of Die Winterreise at Western. In his later years he worked regularly on Bach's Goldberg Variations and did a recital of them last year (this I heard from Neil Lieurance, who was present). I'm sure I'm missing many other important things!

While I was never a student of Bob's, he was an enormously important model for me. His musicianship, his love of music and immense knowledge (of many things, not just music) were hugely influential.

As I've noted before, I was introduced to Bob by Neil Lieurance, who was my high school teacher and who was working on his master's at WWU after I graduated and was going to school at the University of Washington. Bob did a memorable series of summer choral workshops at Western in those days and I attended workshops led by Gregg Smith, Günter Graulich (who would own Carus Verlag), and Louis Halsey (his son, Simon—well known now for his connection as Simon Rattle's choral conductor in Birmingham and Berlin—would spend a year studying with Bob at WWU).

Because I'd made this connection, I was invited to go on a study tour of England he organized in 1975. This was a watershed in so many ways—I've posted about it on my blog previously in 14 different posts. I think you'll be astonished at the experiences we had and the people we met or concerts we heard: Roger Norrington (we met with him in his home and the rehearsals we observed were my introduction to the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers), Alfred Deller (we heard the Deller consort in a program and went to a reception at his home), Simon Preston (then at Christ Church College), Louis Halsey, David Munrow, composer John Gardner, Daniel Barenboim conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra in (among other things) Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer with Janet Baker, Solti conducting Die Frau ohne Schatten, Colin Davis conducting Cosi, Falstaff with Sir Geraint Evans in the title role, Death in Venice with Pears, Colerige-Taylor's Hiawatha's Wedding Feast and Purcell's Hail, Bright Cecilia at Aldeburgh with Pears, John Shirley-Quirk, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, and Charles Brett (we also saw Britten riding in his open convertible with Pears and Imogen Holst after the concert); also part of the Aldeburgh Festival, but out of doors at a nearby ruined castle, Imogen Holst conducting her fathers E-flat Band Suite; a performance of the Britten War Requiem; meeting with the young Fitzwilliam String Quartet, who had a close relationship with Shostokovich and played his 15th string quartet for us; the young King's Singers at a festival at St. Alban's (along with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in a baroque program, the English Chamber Orchestra, which did the Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani with Peter Hurford, and a recital by James Bowman with Robert Spencer on lute).

As you can imagine, this was an amazing and life-changing experience . . . and Bob organized all of it!

I also have to say that Kathryn and my wedding included Bob's setting of Psalm 91, for men's voices, organ and 2 horns—beautiful!

Bob and his wife Sandy are simply wonderful people as well—gracious and welcoming in all ways. They've had a marvelous influence on so many lives. We can all thank them for that and I certainly do.

In particular, my thoughts are with Sandy, who has to deal with the loss of her husband and partner of so many years.


Shannon Lythgoe said...

A lovely tribute, thank you Richard! My Dad, Len Lythgoe, was privy to a similar experience and I was lucky enough to study under Bob at WWU as well. He was a dear friend ever since of my family, as Sandy still is. Just a small thing; he actually died on Sunday the 30th, not Tuesday...

Lloyd Walworth said...

Thank you, Richard, for this beautiful and richly detailed recap of Dr. Scandrett's musical life and powerful impact on so many choral conductors. It was my privilege to attend WWU in the late 1960s during the transition from Bernard Regier's tenure to Bob's leadership. He opened the world of Stravinsky, Orff, Fine and so much more to us, always with his inimitable style and grace. I also recall a Schubert song recital that he presented with Jacob Hamm that was spellbinding and transcendent in its beauty and detail of preparation. He leaves a legacy of caring commitment to what is beautiful and good in human nature.
Lloyd Walworth, WWU class of 1969

Richard said...

Dear Shannon and Lloyd--I'm sorry I missed your comments--I almost never get any and hadn't checked.

Shannon, I didn't know Len well, but met him on a number of occasions through Neil Lieurance.

Lloyd, I may have been at the same recital, I remember hearing Schubert's Winterreise at WWU.

Amazing man!