A special concert is to be held in memory of former BBC Symphony Orchestra violinist Russell Dawson. Joanna Davis reports on a talented musician who lived life to the full.

WHEN musicians Peter Oakes and Sally Flann strike up the first few bars of Faure's Elegie at a Dorchester concert on Thursday, it's sure to be a moving moment.

They will be thinking of their friend Russell Dawson, who made up the Dorchester Piano Trio with them and the composition will be played in tribute to him.

Husband, father and grandfather Russell, of Poundbury, died in September aged 67 after a short illness. He is remembered as 'a very special person' and 'a musician to his core'.

A special Dorchester Piano Quartet concert will be held at Dorchester Corn Exchange on Thursday, November 21 at 11.30am. A big turn-out is expected with Russell's loved ones and classic music lovers alike gathering to remember the professional violinist and the music he loved.

Russell, who was born in Yorkshire, had to leave the BBC Symphony Orchestra after 27 years because of increasing difficulties with his hearing. He had been in the prestigious orchestra since 1976 and in that time had toured all over the world and felt privileged to be working with world-renowned conductors and soloists.

Russell's wife Myra described this departure for her husband, a man who had been defined by a violin, as being 'a period of bereavement'. But, ever the pragmatist, Russell instead decided to use his time to help those suffering from loneliness.

Peter said: "While still in the orchestra, Russell had volunteered as a minibus driver for Mencap, taking adults with learning disabilities to a day club. Now, he took on another driving role as a volunteer for Harrow Library Service - driving the van which took books to housebound people."

Russell and Myra, who had come to know and like Dorset, decided they wanted a complete change and decided to leave London behind. The couple made their home in Poundbury in 2003.

In Dorset Russell met pianist Peter and explained that while his hearing couldn’t cope with the demands of playing in a large hall as part of a symphony orchestra, chamber music would be possible. In Dorset Russell was able to return to his first love - giving concerts that included the central works of the violin repertoire: sonatas by Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. After a lunchtime recital in St Mary’s Church, Dorchester, cellist Sally Flann approached the two men and said she would love to play piano trios – thus the Dorchester Piano Trio was born and, with it, 10 years of lunchtime concerts in Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

Ever-busy Russell took on roles as programme secretary of the Dorset County Museum Music Society and was a volunteer advocate for Dorset Advocacy, spending time with and speaking on behalf of a man who, because of his condition, couldn’t speak up for himself.

Peter said: "Although Russell never complained about his hearing, he did mention that it was deteriorating further and that he found it harder to play in the trio. We continued to play short concerts in old people’s homes until just a few weeks ago, but we gave our last formal lunchtime concert as the Dorchester Piano Trio in March 2016. At the end of the concert, Russell was awarded life-membership of Dorset County Museum by its director, Jon Murden."

Russell continued to play at weddings with the Arioso String Quartet, 'taking weddings as seriously as if he were performing with the BBC' fellow musician Jane Margeson remembers.

As a private violin and viola tutor Russell would put pupils at ease, with student Alison Wood remembering her fears being immediately dispelled by the 'warmth' of Russell’s welcome and his 'courteousness'.

His wife Myra remembers: "Russell gave so much as a teacher. He never clock-watched during lessons, which always overran. Often I'd be sitting at my computer while he was teaching in the next room and his enthusiasm and commitment were so obvious."

Keen walker and cyclist Russell was a member of Poundbury Pathfinders and a bit of a hill specialist. He and Myra loved going on walking and cycling holidays and travelled to walk in places like Spain and Morocco and cycle in Croatia, Italy, India, and, earlier this year, Costa Rica.

Only a few months before his death Russell had become a churchwarden at St Peter’s Church in Dorchester.

After Russell passed away Myra said she received numerous sympathy cards praising her husband's contribution to the musical community in Dorchester.

She said: "In his own quiet way Russell was a very special person who touched the lives of a lot of people – but most of all he was a loving husband, father and grandfather. His death has left a huge hole in many people’s lives."

Russell Dawson, July 13, 1952 – September 5, 2019

*Dorchester Piano Quartet, Dorchester Corn Exchange, Thursday, November 21, 11.30am. Featuring the the Élégie by Fauré in memory of Peter and Sally's friend Russell and Tanayev's Piano Quartet in E major. Entry is free. Donations for Dorchester Piano Quartet and Dorchester Arts welcome.