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Michel-E. Proulx

SCOTT ROSS, HARPSICHORDIST, An uncompleted destiny

Biography of Scott Ross, Part 3

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Returning to France.

In 1983, after having a colleague, Pierre Bouchard (1), substitute him, and coming back to the EMUL merely in order to secure episodic training courses, he asked for a leave without pay to which he was not entitled, in theory. But the Vice-Rector to Human Relations, André Boudreau, who had a great admiration for him, insisted that it be awarded (2), and so it is that he came back to Assas and settled himself, not in the chateau itself, but in a small house at the corner of the Montée du Château and of the Rue de la Dougue which he rented from Mr. Astoury , just by the one where lived the English tenor John Elwes and his friend Nelly Allegraud.

He also rented a studio at number 15 of the Rue Monge, in Paris, his pied-à-terre for his frequent stays in the French capital, and thus organized, he dedicated himself to his concertist's career. One cannot truly say that he had neglected it, during his teaching years, but it is true just the same that it had been pushed into the background. He also booked the services of an agent who was to obtain engagements for him a little everywhere. It might be added by the way that this agent did not always bother too much about the geographical constraints.

Last Attempt in Quebec City.

In 1985 Scott gave the EMUL his last trimester of teaching. Then, facing the small number of pupils, he gave them his resignation. His letter, dated from Assas, on June 27, 1986, sounds like a disenchanted statement of what choice's left him, between a career which is really starting up, and a class which is doing precisely the opposite. Indeed, after his departure, the pupils had become scarse. This was by the way one of the points of his programme for the election at the head of the School, that is improving the exterior communication of the EMUL, in order to attract more foreign students.

Scott thus declared himself a bit disheartened by the prospect of having to rebuild a class worth the name, yet judged the evaluation of these ten years of teaching frankly positive. His resignation was effective on August the 1st, and was received with regrets (3).


From there on, he did nothing but tour and record, and from records to concerts, rapidly became the most media covered harpsichordist, to the point of attracting to the instrument, thanks to his performance, a variegated public of which a good part should never have got interested in the harpsichord but for him.

He then told a few of his acquaintances that he had the impression of having exhausted the subject of the harpsichord. He more and more began to think about taking over the piano repertoire. Yet, he held the fortepiano in dread horror (he'd talk about "tin pans"). He did a few attempts to find a teaching appointment in France, without any success however, due to the norms of administration in that country.

But already pealed the urgence. When Catherine Perrin saw him in 1984, at a time when the rumour about AIDS was swelling in a terrifying rumble, he confided with her of his fears. He actually had had a bronchitis, the winter before, which had degenerated in pneumonia, and knowing that this was one of the associated diseases, he said he was "mort de trouille" (he got the wind up)(4) . And he added that he didn't want to do the test because he was sure to get confirmation of his fears. There may lie part of the reason for the intense activity which he spread during his last years.

At the same period had he bought a house in Lozère which he rebuilt alone. He owned an old Peugeot pick-up truck with which he carried stone, cement, lime, and it seems that he thus realized an old, long nurtured dream: that of settling in the countryside. I have earlier mentioned that already in Quebec did he want to buy a country house, but that he had had to give up the project. And in 1985 did he declare to a journalist that

"Anyway, when I'm 40, I'll stop. I wanted to live in the country as a child, I also wanted to be a farmer"(5)

Around 1987 or 1988, he had his aunt Ella, his father's sister, come to Assas, as well as his brother, James. Then, in the winter of 1988, he left for Canada to give a series of concerts. On his way back, he stopped to pay a visit to Hubert and Florence Laforge in Chicoutimi where Hubert Laforge was now the Rector of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. At that moment, it was obvious for the couple that this was a farewell visit (6) .

In April 1989, he went to Rome, at the Villa Médicis, where he gave a lesson of music for the French Television. One can see him very thinned down and weakened by the attacks of the disease. As he had no Social Security (Medicare), he did not take care of himself well, and it is also possible that he saw no good reason for looking after himself correctly. I have been told that he took whatever he could find as medicine, and one might speculate that (but what is it that couldn't be done with 'ifs' ?) maybe he would have survived, with good medical care.

Actually, he was an illegal alien for the French administration who wanted to have him expelled, and would have, had it not been for the intervention of some friends of him, of which some influent members of the Regional Council for Culture, who represented the Prefect how silly he would have looked for the media, if this had happened.

In the course of his last months, he was looked after by his friends, especially David Ley, harpsichord maker, who had built his second double manual instrument, and Monique Davos, who had been an assistant director for the first Festival de Radio-France et de Montpellier, in 1983. According to testimonials, there was a sort of competition between both these persons for the care to Scott, and Mrs Davos was an advocate of the use of intensive medication. It seems that this was the cause of a homeric struggle between her and those who wished him to die in peace. It is James Ross Jr. who finally brought Scott back in Assas, by the end of May.

On the following June 13, he passed away in his little house in Assas. His brother James, who had insisted upon coming to see him, assisted him right till the end. As, obviously, Scott had prepared nothing for the circumstance, it is James who took care of everything and it is he who asked that the rights of his records be paid to the profit of an organization devised to help young harpsichordists. Unfortunately, I could find no trace of that organization, if ever it existed, nor could I trace back Scott's brother who seems to have vanished in the haze.

After the cremation at the Grammont Funeral Center, in Montpellier, Scott's ashes were dispersed over the village of Assas from a small aircraft, according to his last wishes.


1 No direct kinship with Father Antoine Bouchard.
2 Archives de l'Université Laval et entretien avec A. Boudreau, juillet 1994.
3 Idem.
4 Entretien avec Catherine Perrin.Op.cit.
5 Paris ce Soir, 19 janvier 1985.
6 Entretien avec Hubert Laforge. Op.cit.

(return to Scott Ross'page)

(biography, part1)

(biography, part 2a)

(biography, part 2b)

(biography, part3)