But once we sorted out the fact that Bob needed to play first violin on most quartets (with the exception of popular music such as Beatles songs), we grew to be good friends. Bob and I had similar goofy senses of humor. We especially loved quoting lines from Wallace and Gromit with fake English accents (“You'll be hearing from my solicitor about this!”). One of my all-time favorite memories of Bob was when the four of us participated in the UNC chamber music workshop one week in May. We were fortunate to receive excellent coaching as a group on a Tchaikovsky quartet, which we later performed at Kitty’s church. Meanwhile, in between rehearsals Bob and I amused ourselves by pretending we were in an opera and singing our greetings to each other whenever we crossed paths. Much later, when Bob went to Ireland for a year, he entrusted me with his violin so that it would be played and cared for while he was gone.
Bob’s violin playing was wonderful. He was incredibly expressive, and always eager to grow and improve, both individually and as a group. During the course of the decade-plus that we were together, our quartet explored a lot of repertoire – some briefly and others in depth. We probably spent the most time learning and perfecting Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 (“American”). This piece was fun to play, while challenging us and giving us room to grow. Once we felt we had mastered it well enough to perform it, my friend Bonny hosted a party for us to play the quartet while she served tea and cucumber sandwiches.
Other pieces we spent time rehearsing included various Beethoven quartets, Mozart’s Dissonance and Hunt quartets, the Smetana String Quartet #1 (“From My Life”), Jean Silbelius’ String Quartet #56 (“Voces Intimae”) and Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet #2. We also had a lot of fun with Bob’s friend and neighbor Jennifer Strickland, a clarinetist, learning the wonderful Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintets. Our quartet only performed together in public a few times that I can recall (at the chamber music workshop, Kitty’s church, Bonny’s party, and for a friend’s wedding), but we had many satisfying living room rehearsals, followed by the wonderful ritual of the after-rehearsal snack (usually cheese, as befitting Wallace and Gromit fans).
Bob was a very kind man who loved his family and friends deeply. One Christmas he organized a special quartet rehearsal so we could share our music with his parents who were visiting. He was incredibly proud of his sister Ann and her work as a composer, and he gave us each a copy of a CD of her music when it was released. He was very sweet to my husband and small daughter, always asking about them and welcoming them into his home when we had rehearsals there. When I asked him to play violin duets with me at my church one Sunday in the summer, he readily agreed and played enthusiastically and beautifully. And when I studied the first violin part of the Borodin string quartet and finally mastered it, he was delighted to finally have the chance to put the first violin part on my stand and encourage me to play it. I miss him very much.