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A Tribute to John Edney

A tribute to John Edney, 30 August 1935 – 23 January 2019. Compiled from tributes by Nigel Douglas, Steve Dagg and John Smith.

John in his 83 years raised a close and successful family, was blessed with grandchildren, made countless friends and brought untold pleasure to thousands of people during his long musical career. Through his teaching and mentoring, many of his pupils have become accomplished musicians themselves and he gained the admiration and respect of those that knew him. He is survived by his wife Lilah and two children, Alison and Martin.

John was born in Peckham, London, in 1935 and was raised there during the Second World War. He won a scholarship to Alleyn’s School in Dulwich, where his musical ability was nurtured and developed. He was given the opportunity to try different brass instruments and was encouraged by his mentor, Alan Cave, to take up the trombone and in time joined the London Schools’ Symphony Orchestra. John always said he owed everything to Alan Cave.

In fact, John was a trombonist in the inaugural LSSO under Dr Leslie Russell. After an experimental first course in the Royal College of Music, John played in the Orchestra’s first real course at Christmas 1951, playing in its first public concert in the Royal Festival Hall on the 8 January 1952.

John went on to become one of this country’s finest trombone players. He left school at the age of seventeen and was awarded a scholarship to Trinity College of Music, where he studied with Geoffrey Lindon. As an alternative to being drafted into the forces for two years’ National Service, John elected to spend three years playing in the Grenadier Guards’ band and then returned to Trinity College of Music to complete his studies.

After finishing at Trinity, John established a successful freelance career, frequently alongside his life-long friend Roger Brenner, playing with many companies including the Festival Ballet Company, various BBC Orchestras, the London Mozart Players, many London orchestras, as well as select West End shows. John was also a member of the Orchestra of St. John’s Smith Square and the City of London Sinfonia.

In 1964 he joined the Royal Opera House Orchestra in Covent Garden under the conductorship of Georg Solti. He also became a visiting music teacher at Dulwich College where he taught for many years. After six years with the Opera House John left and moved to the Inner London Education Authority’s Centre for Young Musicians, as Head of Brass, with his friend and colleague Mike Hinton. He had a distinguished teaching, coaching and leadership career spanning some 40 years within the ILEA, the Centre for Young Musicians (CYM) and the London Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO). John, together with the late and much lamented Mike, nurtured a ‘who’s who’ of young talented brass players in a system born in the ILEA which so many Music Services and systems subsequently emulated.

John was appointed Brass Organiser with Mike in the ILEA’s Music Service, and joined CYM at its inception in 1970. He continued teaching at CYM after the abolition of the unitary authority in 1990 until his retirement in July 2015. John was also a Chamber Music Coach and Professor of Trombone at Trinity College – now Trinity Laban. When the ILEA was abolished in 1990, John continued his links with Trinity College of Music as a Professor, teaching trombone and brass ensembles; he examined for Trinity College and for the Guildhall School of Music.

John was elected to numerous MU committees and freely gave of his time not only to undertake invaluable work on behalf the Union’s London Region, but he also became a member of the Executive Committee where his knowledge, experience, wisdom and commitment to his fellow musicians made a marked impression on the work of the Union. And it was not just his experience of teaching and orchestral playing that proved invaluable, but also his passion and commitment to equality issues and the general well-being of his colleagues.

John was a Governor of the Royal Society of Musicians until 2014 and took his responsibilities extremely seriously by working tirelessly on behalf of musicians who were experiencing difficulties through ill health and family tragedy and who found it difficult to earn a living from making music. He single-handedly recruited many musicians into membership of the Society and did all that he could to maintain its relevance and to secure its future.

John was a man of integrity, a true believer in social justice and a tireless supporter of his fellow musicians. He was described by friends and fellow musicians as ‘kind and caring’, ‘straight up and down’, ‘a lovely generous man’, a man of ‘wisdom, encouragement and sense of humour’, and of ‘dignity, integrity and warmth.’

Fittingly, John’s funeral on 20 February in Beckenham was closed by a brass quintet of John’s former students (led by Matthew Hart-Dyke), playing John’s own arrangement of Henry Mancini’s ‘Pink Panther Theme.’

Published: 14/03/2019

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