Farewell to Colin Renwick, the LSO’s longest serving member

This February First Violin Colin Renwick said goodbye to the LSO, retiring after 43 years as an LSO member - a record in LSO history.


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Colin joined the LSO in August of 1978, when André Previn was at the helm as Principal Conductor, and has performed under many of the most significant international conductors of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Over the course of his career with the LSO, he was worked under six Principal Conductors - André Previn, Claudio Abbado, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev and finally Sir Simon Rattle.

International travel has been a big part of his career. In fact, since August 1978 the LSO has embarked on 640 tours, and Colin took part in most of these. In the first year of his membership he went on tour to Russia before the Iron Curtain was lifted; other highlights include the LSO's World Tour in 1983, summers in Daytona Beach at the Florida International Festival, Oman in 1985, China in 2004, and many festivals across Europe.

Colin has played in landmark LSO concerts, from the opening of the Barbican Centre in 1982; the 'Mahler Vienna and 20th Century' series with Abbado in 1985; the Bernstein Festival in 1986 and Candide in 1989; the three Rostropovich Birthday series in 1987 (60th), 1997 (70th), and 2002 (75th), the latter of which included a concert in Buckingham Palace attended by 40 members of the British and European Royal Families. Not to mention the opening of LSO St Luke’s in 2003 and the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, watched by over 1bn people worldwide.

He also played in all the LSO’s big Birthday Galas – the 75th in the Royal Festival Hall and 80th in the Barbican with André Previn; the 85th in the Barbican and 90th in the Barbican with Michael Tilson Thomas and Sir Colin Davis; and the Centenary Concert in the Barbican with a cast of star conductors and soloists.

Some of his musical colleagues at the LSO have shared warm memories and photos of moments on and offstage with Colin.

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Tennis with Rhys Watkins, William Melvin, Joe Melvin and Colin

Colin's skills as a sportsman are a particularly strong memory for some of the players. Double bass Joe Melvin recalls, 'We played tennis on tour many times. One particular highlight was in Germany last year when we beat Rhys Watkins and my brother Will in a game of doubles. [pictured above].

Sub-Principal viola Malcolm Johnston remembers, 'On tour Colin and I would always throw a tennis racquet into our suitcases in the hope that we might find the time and place to have a hit. We were lucky enough to play tennis in some of the most wonderful settings around the world. On one occasion, somewhere in North America, we arranged to meet in the lobby of the hotel and approached one of the staff behind the front desk. Within minutes the helpful gentleman had arranged courts and even a car to take us there. Whilst we waited, there was quite a commotion in the forecourt of the hotel as a stretch-limousine pulled up. The uniformed driver jumped out the front and rushed to open the back door. We could see all the other guests, their heads turning, trying to see which A-list celebrity was going to appear. At this point our names were called and we suddenly realised that the limo was for us. Without hesitation Colin, dressed in his worst pair of shorts and t-shirt, pushed through the throngs of people, waving as he went, and disappeared into the back of the limo. Colin was already in conversation with the driver by the time I clambered into the back seat. “A bottle of your finest champagne on ice, please driver” said Colin, in his finest Australian accent. Great memories.'

Colin Renwick Nic Worters Lennie Mckenzie At Aix in the first residency

A spot of golf with Colin, Nic Worters and Lennox Mackenzie

Double bass Patrick Laurence took this photo of Colin with former LSO Double Bass Nic Worters and former Sub-leader and Chariman Lennox Mckenzie, soaking up the sun during the LSO's first residency at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Patrick said, 'Colin is always such great company, especially on a golf course! Nic Worters and I had a regular four ball with Colin and Lennie Mckenzie for a number of years. Whether in London or on tour, we were often in competition. That combination of characters and the violin/bass rivalry didn’t always result in a high standard of golf. It did, however, result in great camaraderie and some hysterical moments, the memory of which, I will always treasure. I look forward to sharing a golf course, if not always a fairway, with Colin in the future. Who knows, we may even tempt the other two to join us. All the best Colin!'

Fellow First Violin Claire Parfitt said, 'Colin was my desk partner for seven years, from when I joined the First Violin section as a young player. (We later changed the rota, to pulling out names from a coffee cup, a process which is used to this day. Random, but it works!) He really guided me through the whole process of orchestral playing - the awkward passages, tips and hints which abound in First Violin parts, yet always with his gentle 'chillax' and positive attitude. Colin also introduced me to Australian wine, notably St Hugo and Henscke... His sense of fairness and legendary good humour shall be sorely missed in the section. And I'm sure he could write a book on golf courses of the world, in which now, he can really indulge! Fore!'

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First Violins backstage at the Barbican

Cellist Noël Bradshaw remembers, 'Early on in Colin’s and my LSO career, the orchestra used to do an annual National tour around some of the major cities of Britain. It was generously sponsored by Shell UK, and the subsistence was also unusually generous! Although as is normal for LSO tours, transport and hotels were provided by the orchestra, some of us opted to organise our own travel arrangements, and Colin, I, and others would pile into one of our cars and book accommodation in pubs and B&Bs. That way we got to see more of the country and have a bit more of an adventure. The tours would often go far north, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and they were always in November, so you can imagine that the weather could be pretty bad. On this particular tour, one of us had booked for us to stay at this wildly romantic pub in the middle of nowhere somewhere either in the Yorkshire dales or Scottish highlands, I can’t remember which, and we spent the morning driving there from our previous nights accommodation. As we drove, the weather deteriorated more and more, with snow and gales making our progress increasingly difficult, so that when we finally found our pub in the middle of snow covered moorland, we felt like arctic explorers finding base camp. The publican was unimpressed by the weather, and set about delivering us a wonderful lunch in front of a huge blazing fire. However, there was talk amongst the few locals around us that we might be stuck here for a few days, if it continued to snow. Well what could we do? At this point, Colin popped his head out of the door to check just how deep the snow was, only to come back to say that it had stopped snowing, most of what had lain had melted, and that we had better get a move on if we didn’t want to be late for the rehearsal!'

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Colin with former LSO violinists Lennie Mackenzie and Nigel Broadbent

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A moment backstage at a BMW Classics open air concert at Trafalgar Square.

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