Friday, 2 September 2011

Brent Symphony Orchestra memorial concert

My parents, Roger and Janet West, were members of the Brent Symphony Orchestra for many years when they lived in London, until the family moved to Norfolk in 1975. Dad was first clarinet and Mum led the violas, and she would play piano or celeste whenever one was needed for a piece.

In a way, I owe my existence to that orchestra, since my parents met there. They had both attended the inaugural Edinburgh course of the Rehearsal Orchestra in 1957 without meeting, and when my mother came down to London to study at the RCM, Harry Legge, who founded the Rehearsal Orchestra, asked if she would like to come and play in his London orchestra, the Harlesdon Symphony Orchestra as it was called in those days. (The orchestra has been renamed a couple of times in subsequent years as borough boundaries and names have changed, but is now settled on the name Brent Symphony Orchestra.)

She was very willing to join, provided somebody could give her a lift to rehearsals from her digs in Putney. That was arranged, and Dad, who lived that way, was asked to provide the lift! They married about three years later.

I remember one time when they came back home from a rehearsal in fits of giggles. Harry had said something unprecedented for a conductor.

"Violas, you're too loud. You're drowning the trombones!"

When I came back down to London in 1980 to study at university, it was natural to go along to Brent and renew the family acquaintance with the orchestra, which was still being conducted after all those years by Harry Legge.

It so happened that the first rehearsal I went to, neither of the regular horns was there, so there was just me and another new player at her first rehearsal. So we sat ourselves down on 1st and 2nd horn and got on with playing. In the course of the rehearsal, Harry muttered to nobody in particular "Horns turn up - all sounds fine. Horns disappear - still sounds fine!" I was a regular for a while when I was a student, and have occasionally depped for them in the years since.

My mum died in 2003. When my dad died last Christmas, I of course told the people running both orchestras - Rehearsal Orchestra and Brent. Mum and Dad had a great many dear friends in both orchestras, and although few if any of them are still regular players, some of them still keep in touch and come to the concerts.

So I was very touched when Heather Raybould, orchestral manager at Brent, contacted me earlier this year to ask if they could dedicate their November charity concert to my parents' memory, with the proceeds going to a charity associated with them. And she also asked if I would like to play a solo with the orchestra.

I replied immediately, saying I would have to consult with my brother and sisters, but that the answer would undoubtedly be "yes". It was eventually arranged that I would play Richard Strauss' First Horn Concerto, and my sister Joanna (a professional violinist) will play Tchaikovsky's Sérénade mélancolique. In the second half, the orchestra will play Bruckner 4. The concert will be on November 5th, at St John's Wood Church, Lord's Roundabout, NW8 7NE, 7:00 pm. Do please come if you are nearby.

I'm extremely grateful to the Brent Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Lev Parikian for coming up with the idea of remembering my parents in the way, and providing me with an opportunity to give a musical tribute to them. Quite apart from the fact that they were wonderful parents, I learned an awful lot musically from them, when I was Growing up musical. And they in turn learned a great deal of their music, especially orchestral technique, from Harry Legge and the Brent Symphony Orchestra. So it will be a tribute to the orchestra as well as to my parents.

As for the charities to benefit from the concert, I've chosen two.

The first is the Thyroid Eye Disease Charitable Trust, because my mother suffered from thyroid eye disease in her later years, which curtailed her music making because of the double-vision it caused. Her particular talent was for piano accompaniment, in particular sight-reading. And you can't sight-read with double-vision, you can't tell which line the notes are on!

The other charity is the Alzheimer's Society, which deals with all varieties of dementia. Dementia is what finally carried off my father. I hope that any money raised can contribute towards finding a cure both diseases.

No comments:

Post a Comment