Angela Barnes reflects on the career of LSO Horn player Jonathan Lipton.
Jonathan Lipton, LSO Fourth Horn, 1987–2019
Last month we said a very fond farewell to Jonathan Lipton, the longest serving Fourth Horn that the LSO has ever had. The money raised in his leaving collection was a testament to how beloved a colleague he was, and was put towards a 1950s Bulova watch (to replace one which had been passed down through several generations of his family, sadly lost in a burglary) and a Bob Dylan print; Bob Dylan being another of Jonathan’s musical passions.
During the morning rehearsal ahead of one of our Santa Barbara concerts, double bass player Colin Paris, long time friend and golfing partner of Jonathan’s. gave a heart-warming speech, which left barely a dry eye in the house. Jonathan then lightened the mood with his typically comedic response – something about present company being the ‘finest musicians in the room’…! It was a sobering moment though. This was the end of an era, both musically and personally.
Having made the move across the pond in 1976 from New York to Essex, Jonathan initially found himself unable to work as a horn player, not having a Union card. Ever industrious, he worked variously as an ice cream vendor and builder whilst waiting the required two years to join the Union. His first orchestral job offer for the position of Fourth Horn with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra came via a phone call early one morning, only for it to be retracted soon after – wrong number! The Ulster Orchestra quickly took advantage of the CBSO’s error, and Jonathan took up the position of Fourth/Second Horn in Belfast in 1981. After four happy years there, which saw the birth of his son Joe, he moved to the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra in 1985, and then on to the LSO as Fourth Horn in 1987. A group of us had a meal in London last month to celebrate his career, with representatives from all of the various incarnations of Jonathan’s sections over the years. All manner of happy and hilarious memories were shared!
Reading through the messages written to Jonathan, included in a commemorative photo book and presented at said meal, the recurring themes were of his inimitable wit and verging on pathological need to be at the front of every bus/hotel/check-in queue, or at the very least ahead of our esteemed Co-Leader, Carmine. Air miles also featured, lest we forget his flight from London to Manchester, purely to retain the relevant tier points required for Gold status. And who can forget the time when 'the train left without him' in China, taking with it his wallet, phone, passport, Kindle – we were all astonished when he managed to email the Tour Manager from an internet café in the station, and with the help of the ever wonderful James Richardson, Jonathan miraculously made it to the second half of the concert, a mere 5 hours away in Wuhan.
Jonathan will be missed dearly, although no doubt referenced often – I’m certainly expecting dining out on tour to likely take on a whole new perspective. With the absence of, as former Principal Horn David Pyatt used to describe him, ‘Never To Be Out-Beveraged’ Lipton – he would invariably have numerous glasses lined up in front of him simultaneously, dinner often involving a livener, a soft drink, sparkling water, wine, coffee and an Amaretto – there’s bound to be a good deal more space on the table to start! Jonathan was also never one to be limited by the restraints of a menu, switching things from one dish to another, or even asking for additional ‘condiments’ that no self-respecting curry house/Chinese/steak restaurant/Italian would expect to provide – strawberry jam being far and away the most oft requested, closely followed by tomato ketchup and mango chutney! ('Food is a vehicle for sauce!' he would reprimand me.)
Joking aside, in Jonathan’s departure we quite literally lose the foundation of our Horn section. His really are unenviably large shoes to fill, though fill them we must. But for those worried about the gaping hole he leaves behind, Jonathan already has dates in the diary with the LSO, both in London and on tour over the coming months, so this really is less of a ‘Farewell’, more of a ‘See you soon!’
By Angela Barnes, LSO Horn Player
Read an interview with Andrew Marriner, who ended his time as the LSO's Principal Clarinet in July 2019.