Ronald cannot remember exactly how they met but it could have been connected with the performance of RVW’s ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’, conducted by Ronald Woan himself, which used the Birkenhead Choral Society, the Cathedral Singers and the Cathedral choir from the Anglican Cathedral, together with the RLPO.
It is possible that Ronald and Charles were introduced by Stainton Taylor of Wallasey, who conducted the Wallasey Singers, was also Music Critic of the Daily Post, and later, author of “200 years of Music in Liverpool” in which he mentioned Charles Scarratt and Doris Parkinson as being exceptional conductors in Wirral, who, ‘despite not being of Liverpool’, nevertheless deserved mention. Charles had invited Stainton Taylor to attend choir practices shortly before they were due to compete in certain Eisteddfods, to give constructive criticism in a bid to perfect their performance, and this is probably how Charles came to invite Ronald Woan to his rehearsals to perform the same role.
Charles deeply appreciated the chance to sit back and listen to his choir objectively whilst they were being conducted by Ronald and a real treat for him was to sing with the bass section in his own choir with a visiting conductor, so Ronald’s visits were a great honour and tremendously enjoyable for several different reasons.
Ronald says that he came over from Liverpool, “flattered by Charles to be invited”, and was astonished at Charles’s rehearsal technique which he found to be “utterly unique and quite unorthodox”. He sat and listened “in awe and wonder”, learning from this technique and wondering how he was expected to improve the choir’s performance, when Charles had taken every individual phrase and polished it over again until it was as near perfect as could be.
Ronald was also startled that Charles would break off, utter critical quips to various sections of the choir, who would burst into gales of laughter yet never took offence. “He would insult them, but they laughed and still loved him!” Ronald says that he gained enormous, huge respect for Charles’s unique musical ability, “…and yet he was not a professional musician, was he? He had another job!”
They went on to work together in a major performance to mark a special occasion in the Cathedral Calendar, which required massed voices, using the Birkenhead Choral Society, the William Morris Singers, the choir of the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral Singers, together with the RLPO, for the Bruckner ‘Te Deum’, the Mozart ‘Requiem’ and Handel’s ‘Zadok The Priest’.
On other occasions they performed with the Cathedral Singers the Faure ’Requiem’, ‘Five Mystical Songs’ by RVW, the Vivaldi ‘Gloria’ and again, Mozart’s ‘Requiem’,
Ronald disbanded the Cathedral Singers in 1978 and retired from his post at the Cathedral in 1982, three years after Charles’ death.
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