E-mails. Page 6.


The following e-mail is from John Dobson of N Walsham, Norfolk.

ERIC GARRETT went to Guisborough Grammar School and was in the 5th form when I started in 1948. He lived in the High St, Skelton at the sweet shop next to Evans's Jewellers. I remember his dad, who I think had a deformed leg. Anyway, Eric was absolutely hopeless at sport, a big lad, heaven helped those who got in his way as he attempted to play football. However he could sing, not like a nightingale, but like Tito Gobbi. A powerful baritone he would bring the house down in parts such as the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado. He was always the star of the annual productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. When he left GGS in about 1950 he went to the Royal College of Music. I then forgot he existed. One day in about 1992 I was watching a block buster TV production of Die Fleidermaus, when onto the stage stepped our hero.

Skelton Cub Scouts - Jim Corner, Norman Judson, Eric Garrett and Graham Mathieson.

I instantly recognised him and waited to the end for confirmation when the cast was displayed. I had earlier said to Sara and visiting family that "I know that baritone" which brought howls of derision. Some years later when watching a biographical bit about Maria Callas he appeared again. This time the second name below Maria Callas on a poster advertising the 1963 production of Tosca at Covent Garden.

Eric Garrett studied singing, opera and harmony at the Royal College of Music and gained his ARCM diploma.
He continued his vocal studies with Dame Eva Turner and later with Tito Gobbi.

The wedding of Eric and Miss Jean Povey, of Port Clarence.
The bride is a well known singer, who has broadcast and appeared in many Middlesbrough Operatic Society productions. The groom holds a major scholarship at the Royal College of Music.

Since the beginning of his professional career over thirty years ago, Eric has become one of Britain's most experienced operatic artists and he is still a member of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where his standard repertoire includes well over seventy-five roles and where his first SAGRESTANO was to the Tosca of Maria Callas and the SCARPIA of Tito Gobbi.

In recent years at Covent Garden, he has sung the title role in GIANNI SCHICCHI, FRANK/Die Fledermaus, COUNT HORN/Un Ballo in Maschera, 2ND SOLDIER/Salomé with conductors Andrew Davis, Zubin Mehta, Edward Downes, TRUFFALDINO/Ariadne auf Naxos with Jessie Norman, Kathleen Battle and later Edita Gruberova and conducted by Colin Davis, the MAYOR/Jenufa, SWALLOW/Peter Grimes with Jon Vickers, SKULA/Prince Igor all conducted by Bernard Haitink, MUSTAFA/L'Italiana in Algeri with Agnes Baltsa conducted by Gabriele Ferro, and with Marilyn Horne conducted by Renzetti, the title-role in Don Pasquale with Kathleen Battle and Raoul Gimenez and conducted by Bruno Campanella, BARTOLO/Il Barbiere di Siviglia conducted by Gabriele Ferro, DON MAGNIFICO/La Cenerentola conducted by Carlo Rizzi and with Anne Sophie von Otter in the title-role, VARLAAM/Boris Godunov conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky in the Andrei Tarkovsky production with Paata Burchuladze in the title-role.

Guest appearances in the USA have taken him to the Los Angeles Opera Theatre as BARON OCHS/Der Rosenkavalier (Hans Hartleb/Henry Holt) with Susan Quittmeyer as OCTAVIAN, and also to the San Francisco Opera as DANSKERBilly Budd (Basil Coleman/Raymond Leppard) and as SAGRESTANO the following year.

Eric Garrett in Don Pasquale.

In Europe he has sung in Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Liège, Metz, Marseille, Rennes and Montpellier roles such as; BARON OCHS, TRUFFALDINO, BARTOLO (Figaro & Barbiere), DULCAMARA, GERONTE/Manon Lescaut, MICHONNET/Adriana Lecouvreur, FRA MELITONE, LEPORELLO (with José van Dam in the title-role), DON MAGNIFICO, DON PASQUALE, SWALLOW, SLOOK/Cambiale di Matrimonio and (encouraged by his teacher, Tito Gobbi) even SCARPIA and the title-role in Verdi's Falstaff in Gobbi's own production. He also sang the MAYOR in Menotti's The Hero produced by the composer at La Monnaie in Brussels and MUSTAFA/L'Italiana in Algeri with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

His recordings and videos include Billy Budd, Salomé with Maria Ewing, Andrea Chénier with Placido Domingo and Anna Tomowa-Sintow, John Schlesinger's Tales of Hoffmann with Domingo, Prince Igor (Serban/Haitink production), La Fille du Regiment with Sutherland and Pavarotti conducted by Richard Bonynge, Menotti's The Boy Who Grew Too Fast, and Trial by Jury for Chandos conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. In 1993/4 season he appeared with Mirella Freni and José Carreras in the Royal Opera House's production of Fedora conducted by Edward Downes and also in Johannes Schaaf's production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Later in the season, he made his Canadian debut at Hamilton Opera as DR BARTOLO/Le Nozze di Figaro.

He re-appeared at the Royal Opera House in their productions of Der Rosenkavalier and Peter Grimes in March/April 1995 and in Tosca in October. He also returned to Hamilton Opera in November 1995 to perform in their production of The Barber of Seville.

Eric Garrett as Sagrestano in Tosca.

In July 1996, Mr Garrett made a triumphant and unexpected debut at Glyndebourne Festival Opera as GRAF WALDNER/Arabella conducted by Dietfried Bernet under whose baton Eric also recently appeared as Baron Zeta in Graham Vick's production of Die Lustige Witwe for The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where he was also seen as DR BARTOLO in both Il Barbiere di Siviglia and LeNozze di Figaro.

In September/October OF 1998 he returned to Canada to perform the role of SAGRESTANO in the Canadian Opera Company production of Tosca, and later appeared with the Royal Opera as KECAL in The Bartered Bride.

In summer 1999 he sang the role of ARCHON in Martinu's The Greek Passion at the 1999 Bregenz Festival in Austria and more recently DR BARTOLO (Barbiere) for Opera Ireland. Recent appearances include DANSKER at La Fenice, Venice, SAGRESTANO/Tosca at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, DANSKER for the New Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv and SWALLOW/Peter Grimes in Montpellier.

He died of heart failure at his holiday home in Majorca on May 7th, 2009, at the age of 77. He was survived by his wife and fellow-Royal Opera House singer Jean Povey, and their two children.

An Obituary and great story. -
A familiar figure on the Covent Garden stage for some four decades, the bass Eric Garrett, who has died at the age of 77, was renowned for his interpretation of subsidiary roles.
Bringing to such comprimario parts an uncommonly expressive physiognomy and deeply etched characterisations, he was one of the most reliable members of the Royal Opera ensemble company, proving the worth of a system that has now regrettably fallen into desuetude.
Garrett was born in Skelton-in-Cleveland, in North Yorkshire.
In 1948 he met the soprano Jean Povey, who was later to become his wife, and who encouraged him to train as a singer. He gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London, undertaking further studies with Eva Turner and Tito Gobbi.
His first appearance at Covent Garden came in 1956, as a member of the chorus, following in the footsteps of his wife the previous year.
He remained a chorus member until 1959, and became a company principal in 1962, taking the roles of Benoit and Alcindoro in La Bohème.
The latter role he was to continue singing throughout his career at Covent Garden, along with more than 75 others, including Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Swallow in Peter Grimes (a characterisation described as "magnificently self-important"), Count Ceprano in Rigoletto and the Marquis d'Obigny in La Traviata.
other, less regular, assignments included Don Fernando in Fidelio, the Nightwatchman in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Dr Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and the title role in Gianni Schicchi.
One of his most familiar roles, however, was that of the Sacristan in Tosca, which he first performed alongside Maria Callas and Gobbi when Franco Zeffirelli's production was new in 1964.
Garrett's expressive face and comic flair were seen to good effect when the production, by then starring Luciano Pavarotti as Cavaradossi, was transmitted on a big screen in 1992.
It was also one of the last roles he undertook in 2000, his final year at Covent Garden.
Abroad, he was occasionally invited to undertake more major roles, including Falstaff, Scarpia in Tosca and Rocco in Fidelio.
It was on 16 January 1988 that Garrett made his most memorable appearance at Covent Garden.
Paolo Montarsolo, who had been due to take the key role of Mustafà in Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, succumbed to a throat infection, and fog provented the intended replacement from flying into Heathrow.
While his son drove him from his home in Hertfordshire to central London, Garrett reacquainted himself with the score.
Traffic gridlock caused by the circling fog forced him to abandon the car and sprint the final mile to the opera house.
The performance started nearly an hour late, but fortunately he was familiar with the production, though he had never sung the part on the stage.
Not only did he acquit himself admirably in the elaborate triplets of his big Act 1 aria and prove himself a match for the animated Isabella of Agnes Baltsa, but his inspired improvisations had a freshness lacking in the other singers' rehearsed stage routines.
Rarely has a curtain-call ovation been so rapturous or so richly deserved. He is survived by Jean and their son and daughter.


Another email from John Dobson remembers a person from the other end of the social scale, but just as worthy of our admiration.

John Young was the local coalman. He was an old man when we were kids, probably about fifty !
His coal yard was in a field behind the Wharton Arms. We used to play football and one wall of his stable was painted as goal posts.
There was, what appeared to us, a mountain of coal. It was all shapes and sizes. He would break up the lumps and sieve it into various piles with hand held sieves. He would then bag and weigh and neatly stack the various grades into different sections.
I later found out that he bought the coal ungraded because "run of the mine coal" was much cheaper and his own labour cost nothing.
If he thought that we kids were making fun of him (young kids can be cruel) he would hurl a lump of coal in our direction.
What I haven't told you is that John Young was totally blind.
How on earth he weighed the bags, loaded them on the cart and went off through the streets of Skelton is a mystery.
He also fed, watered and groomed the horse, mucked out and kept a remarkably tidy yard, single handed.
I can only assume that his wife , who was called Hilda and was a Challis from Skelton Green would look after the money side of things.
It was quite a sight to see him going along the back street of the High Street, opening the coal holes climbing on the open cart to bring bags to the edge, jumping off the cart and with a one hundred weight bag on his shoulders complete with leather jacket, tip it into the coal holes.
The horse would amazingly navigate the streets, how, we never knew.
John had perpetual scabs on his knuckles and there was often a trickle of blood on his temples.
To navigate to our coal house at North Terrace, he had to climb two steps, open the door, go down the narrow passage, avoid all the rubbish in the yard (some of the time) and drop it in the coal house.
I thought my job of collecting the horse muck from the street was the worst job in the world, but can you imagine how John managed.
It would interesting to know how long and where he lived in later life.

Alan Ward, old Skeltoner, adds that John Young lived at 6 Robinson St, Skelton.


Thomas Allbrook, age 28, born Birmingham and Jane Allbrook, age 23, born Pontefract were staying at the above address at the census of 1901. Can you help this family researcher ?

I have just been looking at your website and I just really want to congratulate you.
It is brilliant.
If you uncover any reference to the Allbrook family please let me know.
I have uncovered Thomas and Jane, but I think there were others and I would love to know.
Thank you.
Michael Allbrook.

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