We note the passing of our patron Michael Pater with great sadness. He gave Cherubim its magnificent Mollenhauer ContraBassoon in 2020. Having organised and contributed to the donations that bought us the Savile Club Bass Clarinet in 2014, Michael contacted me in 2019 and said without preamble: if you were able to ask for any instrument what would you choose? I thought of the least likely instrument – a ContraBassoon – because that would be almost impossible to fund-raise, and tho it’s only occasionally required, when it is, nothing else will do.
After thinking about it Michael accepted, very much to my surprise, and said that he would like to donate it as a bequest. Then we set to discussing what they cost (in 2020 a staggering £24k :: in 2023 a totally incredible £31k). Knowing the prices was almost certain to rise after Brexit I asked him to allow a provisional figure in his will. Michael thought again, and then said: I don’t like the idea of contingency figures, I’ll give it to you now. So we worked out what we could reclaim in VAT & GiftAid, and he gave us £17k, despite the stock exchange promptly falling off a cliff before he could liquidate the necessary assets.
I distinctly remember going to pick the ContraBassoon up from Howarths in Baker St on the very day before Covid travel restrictions were introduced. In its flightcase it weighed as much as a 9 y/o child, and I arrived home in Tisbury with much extended arms. We named it CeeBeebie because ContraBassoons are so rare they generally are known by their nicknames.
Michael requested anonymity but I think death releases us from this obligation. For the last year CeeBeebie has been invaluable to a graduate bassoonist of the RAM named Hugo Mak who has been doing extended trials for the Contrabassoon chair in two Scandinavian orchestras. It has also been used several times by Cherubim Bassoonists Hannah Harding & Emily Ambrose. When not in use the instrument lives at the RAM under the guardianship of the Head of Woodwind Fraser Gordon.
It has also been bought a day dress (gig bag) which greatly reduces it funeral weight.
Both instruments are a fitting memorial to Michael who always prefered to remain in the background, yet was always steadfast and reliable, underpinning any group.