Getting to Know Gary Karr

My First Meeting with Gary Karr

In the early ‘sixties a recital given by Gary Karr, double bass, at the Wigmore Hall, London was being advertised. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend but a pupil of mine went and came back full of superlatives. Gary would have been in his very early twenties at that time.

Some time later, Eugene Cruft, my professor, asked me to play next to him at a television recording to be made at the BBC Television Studios. The Pro Arte Orchestra had been engaged and the soloist was Gary Karr.

After the rehearsal the whole orchestra plus the television crew gave him a resounding ovation and Eugene declared to me that he was amazed. Coming from him, that really meant something.

My Second Meeting with Gary Karr

In the mid-‘sixties I was principal bass with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that Gary was to play an arrangement of Paganini’s Moses Variations with us. He played beautifully, and after the concert we were chatting and he told me that he had been engaged to play the next day at a concert in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, about twenty miles away by ferry. We arranged that I would pick up him and his bass from his hotel the next morning, and, after breakfast at my house I would take him to the ferry.

My son, Nicholas, joined us on the way to the ferry. When we got there some very officious individual barred him from boarding the ferry (a huge boat) because of his bass. An argument ensued and meanwhile my son slipped away to phone the airport and discovered that a plane was leaving shortly from Vancouver Airport to Victoria, so we bundled Gary and his bass into my station wagon and I drove furiously to the airport; Gary caught the plane and was in time for his concert. Gary and I have often talked about this incident.

Getting to know Gary Karr more

By coincidence Gary and I both live in Victoria, British Columbia and are firm friends.  I recently listened to him play some arrangements he made of Japanese traditional melodies, and also when he played with the Victoria Symphony he was recalled many times. He played as well, or better than I could ever remember.

He came to a party at my house on my eightieth birthday  and he, on bass and some other musicians played “Happy Birthday”.   After this, my son brought out the champagne which certainly added to the festivities!

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