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Meet Bill Evans

Meet Bill Evans

Joined: 2003 Voice: bass

Bill, how long have you lived in Dorset and what brought you here?

Frances and I came to Dorset in 2003. We had moved around the world a great deal but at that time the geographic balance of our family changed and the return of our younger daughter and her family from Tanzania to live near Shaftesbury clinched it.  I joined Dorchester Choral Society almost straight away.

A piece of music to remind you of that time.

Britten's War Requiem, one of the great 20th century achievements. I'd been to one of the very earliest performances in 1962 and we all went as a family to Coventry Cathedral in 1987 for the 25th anniversary performance. So when I saw the choral society's plans to sing it in 2004 I thought I'd better try to be part of it. So I auditioned.

Following that, what is your musical history of singing and anything else?

I had piano lessons for ten years from the age of seven, sitting exams up to, I think, Grade 5 and though I never managed to learn anything from memory it did teach me to read music. My parents also sent me along to the Parish Church choir where I stayed until my voice broke and then I joined the school choir. My father was always keen on good music, and in particular Beethoven. He and I went to the Proms most years through my teens, queuing up for standing places in the arena on the penultimate night when Beethoven's 9th Symphony was a fixture on the programme.

I went up to Cambridge to read English at Selwyn College where the college Music Society had a strong reputation for staging quality concerts, a particular treat being the annual visit by the harpsichordist Thurston Dart to play the Goldberg Variations. In my first term I was disappointed not to get into the chapel choir or even the four part Selwyn/Homerton choir but eventually managed the latter in my third year. I sang briefly when I started work in Birmingham and again in Nigeria but didn't pick it up again until the mid-90s when through a village choir I joined the Cranmer Company of Singers, who toured many of the country's cathedrals, filling in during resident choir holidays.

What music has influenced you from those early years?

My father's enthusiasm for Beethoven rubbed off on me and my first ever record - a 78 - was Leonora No. 3, but the work I couldn't be without has to be the Choral Symphony.

You mentioned your work in the Dunlop Company and working abroad.

Both my parents worked at the Dunlop Sports Company's tennis racket factory and I'd done some holiday work there. Later - mainly to improve my languages during university vacations - I'd benefited from temporary jobs with Dunlop in Germany and Sweden. So after graduating it was an easy progression to join the company full time, initially as one of a dozen or so management trainees destined for work overseas. At London head office our lively social life tended to involve the cohort of secretaries and led to several marriages, including my own. First overseas postings were for bachelors only, so I left London on my own for Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and then on to Nigeria but after a year of letter-writing - hardly any international telephones then - Frances came out for a visit to Lagos, we got engaged and were married on my next home leave in 1966.

My passage through the Dunlop ranks took us from Nigeria to the United States, Indonesia, Zambia and New Zealand before returning twenty years later to a post in this country as a member of the group's management board, shortly before we were taken over by the BTR group and my job disappeared. Working overseas gave us many pleasurable experiences, from dealing with political leaders and diplomats to camping in the African bush and staying in thatched cottages on the beach in Bali when tourist numbers were still small. We also had a few adventures in difficult political conditions, not least in the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s, when we were living on the Biafran side of the divide and had to leave Port Harcourt minus our household possessions but - much more important - with a four week old daughter.

Since my Dunlop days I had a few years as managing director of Stag Furniture and then operated on my own, taking interim management or consultancy jobs here and abroad and running an emigration consultancy.

I've always managed to keep up various sports, especially tennis, which I still play all year and briefly made the county over-70s team. I also volunteer at the Credit Union and am treasurer for an investment club, but my main focus is the Choral Society.

Another choice of music.

I became aware of the quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto through a spoof on a 1940s radio programme called Much Binding in the Marsh. The proper version is a terrific piece (featured of course in the film Quartet) with each of the four voices singing independently with typical Verdian faux-simple orchestration.

Which of the choirs activities to you most enjoy? Twinning, social events, outreach, concerts?

What I most enjoy is improving. Our latest performances of the Messiah, for example, are so much crisper than when I first joined; nor do I believe we could have made the progress on the B Minor Mass then that we're making now. The whole choir has risen under Christine's leadership and teaching.

The twinning activities are fun too and we've made some good friends in Lübbecke.

Musical Choice

I'd like some Schubert and my choice is the Trout quintet. I have a lovely recording with Clifford Curzon dazzling in the piano part.

You have a special role in the choir for Ticket Sales. Do you enjoy working as a committee member?

I really do enjoy this task. I like setting up systems and making things work. Importantly, it has helped me to get to know everyone in the choir. And, despite the toil, sweat and tears of the staging project, working with the concert manager and the team is a real pleasure.

Musical Choice

When we lived in the East Midlands the Nottingham concert hall was the best outside London. Simon Rattle used to bring the CBSO to perform there and the work I would like is his farewell recording with them of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony.

Of all the choral works you have sung which have you most enjoyed?

I guess it has to be Brahms's German Requiem. I was so impressed with the way the choir tackled singing in German and was pleased to be able to help with the pronunciation of the text, quickly learning that speaking German isn't always the same as singing it. I am very much looking forward to going to Lübbecke to sing it again this year especially as L'Orphéon will be there too.

Your final musical Choice.

Richard Strauss is a favourite of ours. A hard choice between the Four Last Songs and Der Rosenkavalier but I'll go for the latter.  Our daughters gave us tickets for Jonathan Miller's ENO production, a memorable staging, full of light and elegance. The final reconciliation trio is one of the great emotional treats in music.

Thank you!