Robert (Roy) W. Scarr

1922 - 2014  

Roy (Robert) Scarr, pianist, organist and choir master, played an important role in establishing the music department at Newbold Revel and was Director of Music at Newbold Missionary College, now Newbold College, in Binfield, Berkshire, England, for nearly forty years. It was a record term of service for music teaching and leadership at that school.

Born in Kettering, England, on May 18, 1922, the son of Percival Edward and Lily Anne Scarr, Roy was already an accomplished pianist by the time he entered Newbold in 1938.  During his five years as a student, he served frequently as an accompanist and taught piano at the college in his senior year.

In that year, he also became Young People's Leader, which included working in the Master Guide program. He enjoyed this experience, and his success in Missionary Volunteer classes led to his being asked in 1944 to teach them at Newbold in addition to teaching music.

Scarr graduated from Newbold in 1943 with a diploma in theology and subsequently earned a licentiate (L.R.A.M.) in piano from the Royal Academy of Music in 1946.  The following year he married Edna Roberts, a talented musician, on November 6.  they would have two sons, Graham Melvin and Martin Leigh.

He completed a licentiate in voice (L.T.C.L.) from Trinity College of London in 1953 and received the Gold Medal in speech from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in 1962. He completed a fellowship in singing (F.L.C.M.) from the London College of Music in 1980.

When Newbold moved to Berkshire, in the late 1940s, it was not well received by the village. In an attempt to establish relations with the community Scarr formed a new choir, encouraging church members and local residents to join together. To his credit, sixty years later, the Binfield Singers are still going strong. He also played organ in other Sunday churches, and he and his wife established many friendships that broke down community prejudices against the SDA church.

In 1949 he and his wife, Edna, travelled to Canada, to teach music for a year at Canadian Union College, now Canadian University College, now Burman University, where both taught piano and he also directed the choral program.  

Upon his return, Scarr, in addition to his teaching, became actively involved in the New Gallery Centre, an ongoing Adventist evangelistic outreach program in London that started in 1961. He served as an accompanist for numerous singers, including Kathleen Joyce, and conducted the Newbold choral groups in that venue.

In 1963 he travelled to the U.S., where he served for a year at Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, as an exchange teacher, while Morris Taylor of SMC filled his position at Newbold. During that year Scarr became acquainted with Bob Summerour and Jerry Hoyle, SMC students who were adept at performing American folk music, singing, and playing the banjo, string bass, and harmonica. He enjoyed their music and encouraged them to attend Newbold, promising he would obtain a string bass so that they could continue their musical collaboration as a duo and share their music with that college's students.

Bob and Jerry responded to that invitation and were joined at the last moment by another singer and friend of Hoyle and an acquaintance of Summerour, Don Vollmer, a student from Atlantic Union College. They began singing as a trio at Newbold to the delight of both students and faculty. Known initially as the Shady Grove Singers, they started singing at the New Gallery Centre on a regular basis to great acclaim, and when their stay in England ended, they were awarded the New Gallery Personality Award. On their return to SMC that fall, following a summer of concertizing in Europe, they changed their names to The Wedgwood Trio and were welcomed with great enthusiasm.

Scarr was a popular music teacher at Newbold who taught memorable classes and also served as an advisor to several classes, fully investing himself in whatever role he played. A frequent accompanist, he also was organist for numerous church services and at special events. He was noted for his choral work, with his groups winning in choral competitions and giving numerous concerts on tours in the British Isles and throughout Europe. A solicitous host, he took a strong interest in sharing the sights and music activities of his country with guests from abroad.

Scarr retired at the end of the 1983-1984 school year. In the winter quarter of that year he presented Amusing Victoria, a musical comedy based on the life of Queen Victoria, which he had written. The cast included every member of the Newbold staff, and the program was hailed as the highlight of that quarter's Saturday night programs.

Amusing Victoria was also presented at Stanborough Park (an Adventist academy) and there was a demand that it be presented the following summer. Ruth Taylor, a staff member and actress in the production later referred to the musical in the centennial history of the college as "Roy and Edna Scarr's Crowning Glory."

Scarr continued to be involved in music after his retirement, playing as an organist at church services and weddings.  He was living in Devon, England, when he died on July 3, 2014, at age 92.  He was survived by his wife Edna and their two sons.


Sources: Martin Scarr, son of Roy and Edna Scarr, November 2011; One Hundred Years at Newbold College, Helen Savage and Ruth Taylor, compilers and editors, 2001, a compilation that included excerpts from Roy Scarr's memoirs pages 37-39 and 60, 6I, and recollections of Ruth Clee Taylor, 125; British Adventist Messenger: 12 June 1959, 10; 17 March 1961, 10, 11; 22 December 1961, 6; 2 February 1962, 2; 23 November 1962, 3; 31 July 1963, 5; 3 March 1967, 6, 7; 20 April 1984, 11; 29 June 1984, 7 December 1984, 11; Canadian Union Messenger, 3 August 1949, 3; Southern Tidings, 31 July 1963, 5;The Journal of True Education, October 1957, 24; Interview with Bob Summerour, member of The Wedgwood Trio, March 2009; Robert Scarr obituary, Messenger, 3 August 2014, 15; personal experience as a guest musician at Newbold, summer 1985.