David Ward - died 18 April 2020
We were saddened to learn of David Ward’s death. We all have fond memories of him; his musicianship and friendliness. When he was the conductor of the orchestra he was always the teacher, regaling us with background information mid rehearsal, probably about a finer point of classical music, or his dearly loved Mozart, and whenever we made a mistake (which was often) he would always insist that it was his fault!
We are very lucky that he and Elizabeth were founding members of the orchestra. We know it was very hard for him after Elizabeth died, and courageous of him to continue to fulfil his commitments without her. It is so sad that he was too unwell to play the chosen Mozart piano concerto with us last term, but typical that he was so encouraging of his young understudy.
It is so frustrating that at this difficult time of lockdowns etc. we can’t get a card for the whole K3AO to sign, but when the time comes we hope to commemorate and give thanks together for the life of such a gifted and supportive musician, teacher and friend.
Ken and I got to know David’s daughter Lucy when she joined the Portobello Orchestra in North Kensington. On moving to Kingston we were thinking of starting an orchestra for retired people and asked Lucy if she had anyone among her musical contacts who might be interested in conducting it. She immediately replied, My Dad would love to do it and my Mum will play the clarinet!
David was the perfect person to have recruited. Always patient with the ragamuffin band that assembled (having dug their neglected instruments out of cupboards and lofts) he turned us into an orchestra. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were his great loves and he brought finesse and musical understanding to his teaching of them. Elizabeth was always there, holding the wind section together and calling out from the back row in rehearsals, We can’t hear you!
David loved putting on concerts. In the nicest way, he was himself a born showman and from the start he cajoled the orchestra into performing, despite their nerves and lack of confidence. I remember one of our number asking before the first concert, who will want to listen to us and, what’s more, pay to come? In fact, on November 28th 2010, 150 people packed into the hall at Kingston URC. The balcony, which had been neither used nor cleaned for 20 years, had to be opened up, and there was not a spare seat anywhere. David raised his baton and we played Beethoven’s Symphony no. 1 in C major. We were, perhaps, not note perfect but it was a good moment.
Another of David’s strengths was his capacity to attract and work with other first class musicians. John Kitchen, our first leader, had a wonderful way of encouraging the string players, as did Martin Stuart who led the seconds. Madeline Easton, who succeeded John as leader, formed a memorable partnership with David. The opportunity of working with the two of them on the great violin concertos of Beethoven and Brahms, for example, has been a highlight of membership of the Kingston Third Age Orchestra. To speak personally, my musical appreciation and understanding grew hugely as a result of being under David’s baton. I have cause to thank him every time I play or listen to a work from the classical repertoire.
David will be much missed, as a teacher, as a beloved conductor and a generous musician. May he rest in peace.
Liz Bartlett April 2020
I first knew David in the 1990s when we were respectively chairman and secretary of the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ SW London Centre. I soon came to admire his sensitive, refined musicianship combined with his innovative programming of lecture recitals. At the same time he chaired committee meetings with a quiet authority and gentle humour. Remembering Elizabeth too, they hosted many musical events at their lovely house in Patten Road where there was a keyboard instrument in every room. They were always warm and welcoming, treating us to Elizabeth’s wonderful vegetarian dishes and David’s good taste in wine. Many pleasant hours were spent in the coziness of winter and the delights of the garden in summer. He will be much missed.
David was a superb musician and an inspiring conductor. His enthusiasm and encouraging, supportive approach certainly brought out the best in our playing and increased our understanding of the works we were performing.
His patient manner and positive attitude to life gave us the confidence to perform. Prior to our second concert when, mortified, I was rushing to return home to collect the music which I had inadvertently left there on concert day, David’s response was, “Stop running, Barbara, we’ve all done it!” Not the reaction one might expect immediately before a performance!
David’s desire to assist amateur players and his love for others led him to become a tutor on music breaks run by HF Holidays, assisted by Martin Stuart, of which I attended three or four in various parts of the country. Elizabeth joined him occasionally. It always amazed me how he managed to bring together a hotchpotch of players over a period of only five days, especially when there might have been six flutes and a lap harp in the strings!
Another feature of these holidays was the afternoon guided walk. David would always be sporting his beloved shorts and stepping out with great gusto. Each walk included a stop for refreshments and David always seemed to spot the largest piece of cake on offer — if Martin hadn’t got there first!
These holidays were for orchestral players but David was also tutor for music appreciation holidays and for singing. Tutors were unpaid and given more basic accommodation than the paying participants. It is a tribute to his desire to promote amateur music-making that he continued as tutor for some years.
David was indeed a very special person and I feel privileged to have known him. I have very fond memories of him and will miss him greatly.
Tribute to Dad
The principal emotion, other than sadness and missing our dear Dad, that has been present over the last few weeks has been thankfulness. I am so thankful that the last few weeks and months of Dad’s life were spent surrounded by life and activity, looked after by Lucy and Peter, for which I am eternally grateful, in the midst of their growing family with much of the hurly burly and noise that would sometimes upset him but I know he would never have done without. Dad loved life and energy, and persevered through the last months despite his failing body. Indeed the last few years could have been spent playing a different part, one of a cancer sufferer affected by multiple treatments and the inexorable advance of his condition, but the choice was made not to be affected and to continue giving and taking part in musical and family life up until the very end.
I am thankful that Lucy and I were able to spend time together and with him in the last 48 hours as this is a privilege and a gift that many at the moment are missing out on. How lucky the both of us were to have been bought up in a household, surrounded by music, enveloped by our mother’s pragmatic common sense and unequivocal love, steeped in a rich artistic heritage that Dad was rightly so proud to be a part of. Memories of hours of practicing scales and Mozart, frequent musical and philosophical visitors, concerts at home, wine and dinner parties are all imbued with the sense of close family and a feeling of complete belonging and acceptance, to a bookish and sporty schoolboy who despite a few arguments to the contrary was always mightily proud of his Dad and his piano playing and musicality. I am grateful also for our childhood being surrounded in the knowledge that there is a universal truth, a search for one’s true self that is only found in the present moment. This remains a strength and support, propping up the emotions that have prompted many tears, and reflected on many happy memories recently. It is easy to be regretful at this time also for things unsaid, for frustrations aired and for what may now seem petty demands made – but that would not be true to what Dad wanted from any of his family. He loved and loves every single one of us, I know was so proud of Lucy and me, our spouses and most recently his beloved grandchildren. I know he was ready, and I think in a way we all were ready for him, to shuffle off this mortal coil. He is now free of the desperate longing that he felt for our dear Mum, and whether their souls are together or continuing their journeys I know there is peace amidst their profound and long-lasting love.
In my eyes life for Dad was not complicated. He was sure lucky to have our Mum to think about a lot of practical things, and this was often frustrating for those of us closest to him, as it lead to a sometimes single minded approach to life and family. There is beautiful music, pure and universal – why would anyone want to listen to anything else? It’s 6.30, I’d like a glass of wine, I wonder who is around to get me one…….?! Gravy……..!! As we know he was mischievous and loved having fun and thrived on good company. This is clear listening to the recordings of his piano playing, but also he loved peace, quietness and reflection. I shall never forget the peace and stillness in the air when he asked the audience not to applaud after completing a Mozart sonata – everyone bought into that present moment by the beauty and simplicity he loved so much.
There is so much to be thankful for that he is leaving with us and we should try to emulate. His generosity in giving of himself, and a lack of focus on things that do not matter. His perseverance in practice, in teaching, in the pursuit of making beautiful music. His insistence that everyone followed his example of pure listening to sound and music. His love of walking, the outdoors, and of togetherness and companionship. His communication with the wider family and the many friends he made all over the world. We only need to read the many letters and emails we have received in the last few weeks to appreciate the influence and impact he had on so many people.
So thank you Dad, and Mum, for our lives and for the love we feel. I will finish off with a quote from another of Dad’s beloved composers, Haydn. We know that all Dad really wanted to be remembered for was his music, and for pulling funny faces to his grandchildren.
I his last years Haydn said ‘I know that God has favoured me, and I recognise it thankfully. I also believe that I have done my duty and have been of use to the world through my music. May others do the same!’