I joined BSO in September 1980, aged 16, on the exact same day that Adrian Brown took over from John Coulling as our conductor although I was briefly in the cello section during the 1963-64 season, my mum Shirley discovering it was difficult not to include me in the months before I was born. I may still owe the treasurer a partial subscription for that season. With my family background I don’t think it was ever even considered that I wouldn’t join BSO; my mum played in the cello section from the 1950s and my dad later became chairman.
I went through the fledgling Bromley Youth music scheme as a kid but, unlike my mother’s side of the family (the ubiquitous Handys of West Wickham/Beckenham), my enthusiasm for classical musical at that age was not sufficient for me to consider going into the profession. I started like so many on the violin but moved over to the viola, because we had one and it is, of course, the prince of all instruments. A few months after joining Bromley, I formed a heavy metal band with a friend from the Bromley Youth Chamber Orchestra viola section!
Over the years I think I have only missed one concert; I very nearly missed one back in the early 1980s when I was violently attacked in Orpington High Street but managed to limp my way through the concert the next day, dosed up on painkillers and viewing the music through one eye (not much of a handicap with viola parts). My attempts to become a rock’n’roll star were doomed to failure (not helped I suspect by qualifying as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor) but I joined another band in 1983 and we are still together 30 years later where I play a variety of keyboards, there being little call for a viola in rock music (other than for firewood of course). In fact my collection of keyboards still regularly appears with BSO, standing in for pipe organs, harps and celestes.
After 33 years, Bromley Symphony Orchestra is part of me – I cannot ever imagine not playing in it and I think we are so lucky to have in Adrian a conductor and musical director who gives ordinary folk like myself a chance to play works that many of the pros never get to play. From a young age, before I was eligible to join BSO, I used to come along and watch the afternoon rehearsals on the day of the concert. As I reached around 14 I noticed a very attractive cellist playing the orchestra during these rehearsals. I kept an eye on her over the next 24 years and sure enough, at the age of 38 I married our current chairman Helen. Not exactly speed-dating, but exemplifies I think the quality of the social side of BSO!
When I’m not playing in Bromley, depping with other orchestras, playing ferociously over-amplified rock music or (perish the thought) working, I have a passion for aircraft. I’m heavily involved with the restoration of a ground-running Avro Vulcan aircraft at Southend Airport, have a pilot’s licence and I attend an unhealthy number of airshows throughout the summer months. It’s fortunate that Bromley’s season runs from September to May, or it might clash!