Catherine Garland 1938-2015
Eulogy by Richard Jones at Canford Crematorium, 4th March 2015
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”….these words of Arthur O’Shaughnessy, famously set to music by Edward Elgar, seem an appropriate starting point for our thoughts today.
Catherine was certainly a most dedicated music maker, bringing the joy of discovering music to QEH pianists over a period of some 26 years. Catherine came to the school in 1984 - not an easy time for QEH, still establishing itself as an independent school after the removal of the Direct Grant during the mid-1970s. The facilities that the school could offer then were not those of today. Before it was possible for Catherine to have a regular teaching space of her own, she was quite prepared to teach in the school dining hall, where there was a grand piano. Somehow, Catherine managed stoically to inculcate a love of Mozart while the kitchen staff provided an unlikely percussion accompaniment when laying the tables; later in the day, the accompaniment changed to the sound of washing-up….. This truly was teaching as a missionary activity: not so much the art of the artistic salon, but more the art of the possible, and hardly the stuff of dreams for a piano teacher!
But Catherine set about her work with sureness of touch, to use an appropriate term for a pianist. She always knew instinctively the music that would be appropriate for her pupils, meticulous markings being added to the score week by week. Exam successes were inevitable, and the annual haul of medals and certificates at local festivals was legendary. When referring to the festivals, we think particularly of visits to Weston-super-Mare, for which Catherine’s husband Jim provided unstinting support as the most genial of taxi drivers! Catherine’s commitment to her pupils’ progress and welfare never faltered.
Inevitably, the piano in the Dining Hall gave Catherine’s work a kind of instant publicity. But, when a dedicated room was found for her teaching, Catherine’s work in the school became more prominent rather than less. Not only were there the solo performances of her pupils, but also their piano duets for House Music Competitions. For one particular performance, Catherine herself was joined at the piano by two of the school’s great musical enthusiasts, David Bowyer and James Baker, both in their time Head of the Maths Department. Catherine memorably introduced the item for six hands at one piano with a smile, describing it as “work in progress!” This was a glimpse of the gentle humour that Catherine’s pupils knew, though they were also aware of her determination.
The life of a visiting music teacher in any school is not easy, inhabiting as it does that strange territory where individual tuition is given to pupils withdrawn from another lesson. But the end product is always likely to be part of the shop window of the school, and public performance is easily judged; one must therefore not forget the teacher who has to inspire the hours of practice necessary, on top of schoolwork already set, to achieve the results we all admire. Always respected and welcomed by the Common Room, Catherine held a special place in the affections of the school community, and such was her commitment to QEH that she was also invited to join school trips abroad.
Catherine’s gift was to be able to communicate to pupils of all abilities, remaining down to earth in her approach while leading all to achieve their best. Indeed, some of her pupils did reach a particularly high level of performance, including achievements such as reaching the final stages of the Avon Rotary Young Musician Competition, or performing the 1st movement of the Schumann piano concerto in a joint schools’ concert at St. George’s. Catherine also organised a master class for advanced pupils with the internationally-known pianist, Allan Schiller, with whom she had once studied. And then there was one particularly memorable exam session when a group of three grade 8 candidates all achieved high distinctions. After those exams, the examiner said to me “I think Mrs Garland deserves a medal”. She certainly did.
I started by quoting the opening lines of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s Ode. Further lines from the same poem, towards the end of the first stanza, are also frequently quoted in various contexts, and are appropriate now; they are: “Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems.”
Catherine may have finished her life’s activity, but the presence of all here today is testament to the lasting influence of her work, given with great generosity of spirit. We cherish the memory of not only a skilled and dedicated teacher, but a kind and gracious lady.
Richard Jones, 4th March 2015