Farewell Paul Sarcich

On Saturday 2 July, students present and past – some from 20 years ago – gathered to say farewell to hugely popular Paul Sarcich, who has been the tutor of the Waterloo Centre’s Conductor’s Course and Orchestra for 23 years.

Main article by Ankie Postma

Throughout those years a succession of student conductors and orchestra players basked in the warmth and generosity of Paul’s personality, learning from his experience, skills and expertise.

Every Saturday morning he would be there early, getting chairs, music stands, timpani and music ready. Being such an all-round musician – not only a superb conductor, but percussionist and pianist as well – he would fill in any gaps in the orchestra by playing their parts on the piano.

And that attitude spread: it’s not about individual players or their parts, it’s about the whole: team work. No room for prima donnas!

This unique course, a tremendous asset to Morley College London, always attracted people from many different walks of life with that one thing in common: being mad about classical music and just wanting to get that one passage right.

Fantastic friendships were formed over the years.

At times the course teamed up with the opera school, giving singers an opportunity to sing their arias accompanied by an orchestra. Likewise solo violinists, clarinettists, flautists and pianists from within and outside the orchestra gave conducting students a chance to conduct concertos.

With his relaxed can-do attitude, a sense of humour and enormous tolerance of late starters of average skill and new to orchestral playing, Paul taught us, conductors and players alike, not only about conducting, but about musicianship in general.

When things gradually restarted after lockdown, social distancing and ventilation requirements made it impossible to be in our usual space. Paul created a way to carry on by using the Emma Cons Hall on Sundays when there was virtually no one else in the building. The café being closed, no warm drinks other than from nearby coffee places, no socialising, the freezing cold hall…none of that would stop us coming, as we were only too grateful to be playing music together again.

But it was wonderful when were able to return to normal on Saturday mornings, sandwiching the session between a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup in the café where the friendly staff always make you feel welcome.

Paul was not only our tutor but for many he also became a friend. We will miss him dreadfully, but of course we wish him all the very best in his retirement. He will be a hard act to follow but we’ll be very supportive to his successor and hope to continue for many years in the same spirit.

A personal view from student Jamie Wilkinson

Paul is one of those rare individuals in life that makes such a tremendous impact on everyone he meets; I’m not even sure he realises it himself or just shrugs it off as “his job”.

My journey with Paul started very early on in my musical life when I had my first composition lessons with him, then on to the conducting course, where I stayed for quite a few years. Almost 14 years later, I am very lucky to be working with Paul on my current project.

However, the conducting course without him will never be the same: it is certainly the end of an era.