Obituary: John Harper (1933–2015)


The LSO is saddened to hear of the death of its former Principal Bassoon (1955–1965), John Harper, in Sydney, Australia on 6 October 2015. He was 82.

John was born in 1933 and attended choir school in Oxford from an early age, taking up the bassoon when he was 13. From Oxford he went, on a piano and bassoon scholarship, first to Clifton College, Bristol, and then to the Royal College of Music, where his professor was Archie Camden.

In 1951 he spent his National Service in the Royal Signals Band and his first important London orchestral experience was gained with the London Mozart Players in 1954. A year later he was appointed Principal Bassoon of the LSO.

John emigrated to Australia in the late 1960s and worked with the ABC orchestras around the country (notably with the West Australian Symphony and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestras).

In 1991 he joined the Australian Chamber Orchestra as Orchestra Manager and, until a week before his death, was still coming to work at least twice a week as Archivist. In their tribute the ACO said: 
‘He was smart, witty and passionate, but above all he was a loyal and kind friend to all those who knew him.’ In a recent conversation with the LSO’s Archivist, John recalled that ‘I actually left the LSO to get away from music before I reached 40, and to stop travelling. Since I’ve been in Australia I’ve been managing orchestras, talking about music on the radio, travelling back and forth across this large land and with the ACO travelled to countries I had never visited with the LSO. It seems I wasn’t very good at getting away!’

He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Photo: The LSO's bassoon section with John in Sydney during the Orchestra's tour of Australia in November 2014.