Richard Wilcocks writes:
It was nearly ten o'clock, a warm dusk, when the turn of my group came for a very special performance. Hushed voices, the usual rooks arguing outside in the tops of graveyard trees, the clock in the church tower striking. We stood inside and outside Mr Brontë's study, taking turns, moving quickly between the piano solos and the songs. There sat Maya Irgalina, looking quite like Emily in the drawing, hair in a bun, and there stood Catherine McDonald, beaming at their guests.
Maya Irgalina had arrived in Haworth in the afternoon, having just completed a final examination - a Rachmaninov piece - at the Royal Northern College of Music where she is studying for a Postgraduate Diploma. Since winning first prize in the Pro-Piano Romania international piano competition (Bucharest 2003), she has performed in Belarus (her country of origin), Russia, Poland, Italy, France and Estonia as both soloist and accompanist. Catherine McDonald was once an Angrian with the Brontë Society, and now has an MA in Playwriting from the University of Birmingham. She is currently studying classical singing.
All the music was taken from the Brontës' music books which are now in the Library. Photocopies were used. The first item was Sonata in E flat op. 7 by Muzio Clementi, at the time of the Brontës often known as 'the father of the pianoforte', and it was just right, but possibly too difficult for Emily. Did she struggle with it? Maya didn't appear to, and we got the same professional sweet smile and bow after that as we did after the other items - Beethoven waltzes in F minor and in E flat major, and his Grand Waltz in A minor, then Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith. Catherine sang with great commitment and a fine sense of the dramatic - Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon (which had great significance for Charlotte, Ann and Branwell, Charlotte using it as a narrative device in Shirley), The Old Oak Tree and My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair.
Mahogany, ebony, iron, silk, ivory, skill, charm, beautiful sonority in combination... a wonderful and unforgettable experience.