NYO alumni 1940s
Instrument and dates
Retired British diplomat. Last position was Ambassador to Argentina 1990-93, renewing diplomatic relations after the breach caused by the Falklands war. Later I became Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth 1993-99.
Why did you audition for the NYO?
My mother Jean Hamilton was a professional pianist (pupil of Schnabel) and knew Ruth Railton professionally. Ruth encouraged me to audition (I was the first boy from Eton to do so), and accepted me because I was sufficiently musical to overlook my technical deficiencies. The latter became painfully clear at the first sectional rehearsal, but Dougie Cameron took me under his wing and helped me play a proper part in the later stages e.g. in getting selected for a reduced NYO orchestra to go to Paris for two concerts in 1950.
How has being in the NYO influenced your career?
Being confronted with professional standards of tuning, intonation, ensemble playing (especially listening), discipline and technical study transformed my approach to music-making. The great clarinettist Jack Thurston told me I would have to change my lifestyle radically if I even thought about becoming a professional musician, so I continued to work at the ‘cello without wider expectations. Two-thirds of my life as a diplomat was spent abroad, and in every post (Madrid, Havana, Paris, Madrid again, Luxembourg, Nicosia and Buenos Aires) I met and played with professional and amateur musicians for charity or for pleasure, often meeting sectors of national life otherwise closed to diplomats. The Foreign Office also had its own string quartet in which I played when at home. On retirement in London, and annually at the Dartington Summer School, the cello has remained an essential part of my life. Success in that audition, therefore, was a ‘tipping point’ in my life; and playing chamber-music continues to enrich it.
Most memorable NYO experience?
Being addressed by Bruno Walter at a rehearsal for a concert at the Edinburgh Festival, with his message that playing music for love was the greatest gift we could enjoy.
Also playing in the Salle Pleyel in Paris to a packed audience from Jeunesses Musicales in 1950.
Why do I want to stay connected with the NYO?
The survival of the NYO is crucial for the musical life of the country, and a monument to the courage and vision of its founder, Ruth. It is a privilege to remain connected with the orchestra, to go to its concerts when I can, and to back its continued support by the Cecil King Memorial Foundation as a trustee.
Were you in the 1940s NYO too? What memories do you have? What did you learn that proved useful in later life?
Contact Elmley de la Cour, Development Officer, on or 020 7759 1889 to tell us your story and you could see yourself on the NYO website!