IN MEMORIAM COCO SIDNEY SAMUELS,
12 APRIL 1923 - 22 NOVEMBER 2006
It is five years ago today that Coco left us.
........................To know him was to come close to the traditions of devout Jewish family life in the East End of London. Sidney went to Yeshiva and also to the "Jews' Free School", an ancient Foundation School, where he learned a number of English classical poems that he could still recite eighty years later, and where his name is on a board of honour as a top scholar.
........................1939 -1947: The bombing of London sent Sidney, aged 15-16, with other London and South-East-England children into "Evacuation" in the depths of the English countryside: a really extreme change, and only the first of many. Sidney was next sent to work in a munitions factory in London, before being called-up into the Army. He served in North Africa and in Italy and, after the end of the war, in the Occupying Forces in Austria. Some of you have seen him wearing his medals on ceremonial occasions in Lasalle.
........................After the end of the War Sidney went to the Eder Farm (where he met me, Akhmatova) to train in agriculture: before going to Israel to help found Kibbutz Bet-Ha-Emek, in Galilee. One of our main motives was to make a homeland and a home village for young people, survivors of death camps under Hitler. Bet-Ha-Emek today is a very flourishing village of several hundred families working not only in agriculture, and in horticulture exporting young plants to the USA, but producing silk scarves, the village has a sports centre and a library and the High School serves the surrounding smaller villages.
.......................In 1951 we returned to London where Sid worked as an electrician. Our three children were born over the following years.
.......................Love of classical music, especially vocal music, was habitual in the Samuels family. Sid's father would walk miles on a Saturday to hear a good Chazan (cantor).
.....................Roy gave Coco this name in honour of a great Russian clown. Coco and I, with Orlanda and Johannes and Rafa and Heide-Rosa and Frank, came to Malérargues to open up the house in July 1974. From then on Coco's gifts as Electrician and Gas -Technician, as well as an Accountant, were vital to for lives. Coco never stopped repairing and improving the Chateau and studios. During the first years, as an Accountant, he insisted on our paying our taxes first and foremost, even when we had "no money", We thus earned a very good business reputation and, on a later occasion, a very substantial tax reduction! Of course Singing-lessons and teaching Singing continued alongside all these activities, and Coco's many pupils know how devoted he was to Singing, and to their welfare.
..................The SCI holding company always continued to be his vital concern, often recommending economy and practical measures, although he never held any SCI office of his own to work in. He believed that the chateau should be deeded out to the community of Lasalle and form the kernel of a University of the Arts.
When Coco got to retirement age he started to learn the piano, often phoning me or our son Jeremy for tips. He made steady progressin his playing. His memory for songs with all their words was prodigious. His own voice, which had been apparently an out-of-tune tenor, emerged as a resonant bass-baritone capable of singing Mozart in Flavio's "La Folle Nuit". (see photo above)
..................How enjoyable were Coco's performances! -- notably as as Bottom in Robert's productions of Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream", with Kaya as Titania; and as Vladimir to Saule's Etragon in Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting For Godot"; and as A FOOL (and other characters) in Mai Zetterling's TV series "William Tell".
..................Coco's s love of Chagall and Klee and Rembrandt and Van Gogh and other great painters produced many astounding small copies in gouache, reduced accurately entirely by hand and eye.
...................He loved walking, especially in the Cévennes countryside, and in their later years he and Rossignol went walking together round the Pommeraie every morning.
..................Not only did Coco love swimming, but he also faithfully skimmed leaves off the pool early every morning, and contributed largely to repairing the filter. Coco and Marita were usually the first swimmers of the day. Coco first played golf in Richmond Park with my father, and now played golf with Saule at La Grande Motte. And he loved football, and Liza amongst others regularly came to watch television matches with him.
Thank you, Coco, with love, Akhmatova
Roy Hart Theatre photos index page