It`s been another busy week with various professional engagements plus the fun of the Easter holiday from a simple ice cream to a speed boat ride in Cardiff Bay. Saturday was a fairly stressful day with contracts to read and finalise, and so I decided to take a trip to Malvern to visit my mentor Betty Lewis Fisher. The lady who not only gave me a crash course in singing before entering the Guildhall but who also gave me the professional experience that I needed before embarking on my career.
Betty or known to her close family as Tatty (that`s another story) originally from Carmarthen, started her infamous musical journey with piano lessons from her aunt at age 6. As she tells me today sitting with a cup of tea and a slice of cake whilst in full make up & pearls at the grand age of 92, she didn’t enjoy the early days at the piano. She was simply made to practice.
Early alarm clocks before school to practice, plus hours after school. In fact she tells me it was piano practice at every available hour. She recalls telling her friends at age 10 that when she has her own home there won’t be a piano in it. Isn’t it funny that the piano has become Betty, and after almost 90 years they are totally inseparable. She still practices most days and I must say that when she sits at the piano she lights up and looks years younger.
Through her music she found love and has inspired countless numbers of people. She was the official accompanist at national & international Eisteddfods, accompanied great singers like Sir Geraint Evans, Stuart Burrows, Anne Edwards, Josephine Barstow etc, established both Carmarthen Male Voice Choir & Cor Meibion Dyffryn Tywi, became official accompanist for the BBC and was of course teacher & mentor.
Although when I ask Betty what she regarded as her greatest achievement I was told – “When I taught at Cymer Afan School near Port Talbot, I introduced the children to operetta and we became known for our productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan masterpieces. Introducing the children to another world was very important to me.”
Royal Command performances at Woburn Abbey to overseas tours to the USA & Canada with her choirs, the list really does go on and on. We sit discussing each photograph that surrounds her and although her memory is weak and she has become frail, she still shines when we recall the three decades that we have known each other. We remember the remarkable concerts that we have performed, from the Royal Albert Hall to a trip to Niagara, when my hosts’ children hid my passport in the laundry basket because they didn’t want me to leave .
Betty Lewis Fisher really changed my life. She should have been made a Dame but even without the grand title she is one remarkable lady that I love very much. Thank you Betty.
This article was originally published in the Carmarthen Journal in Mark’s weekly column for the paper.