Abuse scandal destroys cellist's happy memories

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 3:46am

The principal cellist of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra for the past 20 years has said the sex-abuse scandal at Chetham's School of Music in Britain has "tarnished for life" his time there as a student.

At the age of nine, Richard Bamping was accepted by Chetham's, and he remained a student at the Manchester school until he was 18. It is one of only five specialist music schools in the UK with academic studies and rigorous musical development under one roof.

On Thursday, Chetham's Professor Wen Zhou Li, who is originally from China and has tutored some of the brightest musical talents over the past 25 years, was held on suspicion of rape.

The arrest came a week after Michael Brewer, 68, a former musical director at Chetham's, was found guilty of indecently assaulting pupil Frances Andrade from the age of 15.

His ex-wife, Kay, also 68, was convicted of sexually assaulting her as well when she was 18. Andrade killed herself halfway through the trial, at the age of 48.

It was Brewer who admitted Bamping to the school, and the cellist said the director played a major role in his musical development and was revered by the students.

"I had a wonderful time at the school, but I have to admit it has been tarnished for life now," he said. "Brewer was a great, inspiring teacher to me and my peers. He was the head of music and a hugely influential teacher. That all this has come out now just leaves me with a horrible feeling."

The 43-year-old said the reputation of the school could be damaged irreparably.

"It's such a shame that one or a few people's terrible actions could drag down it's name," he said.

Bamping still keeps in contact with schoolfriends from Chetham's and said everyone was trying to come to terms with the revelations. "This is why it's all so terrible. He was the boss, the conductor of the orchestra. On the one hand I had this wonderful education but now it's all tainted. It smells bad," he said.

Bamping did not know Li, 57, who became a teacher at the school after he left in 1987.

According to his website profile, Li came to England in 1988 to teach at the Yehudi Menuhin School and is founder of the International Violin Sonata Course charity.

He was featured in a Channel 4 television documentary called Learning with Mr Li, which focused on his teaching at Chetham's.

Detectives are looking into at least 20 allegations of sexual offences reported by former pupils at Chetham's going back to the 1970s and 80s. They are thought to relate to six teachers.