Happy Retirement Jennie Brown

Jennifer Brown plays her final concert as an LSO Member on 3 April, just a few weeks short of hitting 40 years in the Cello section. Rebecca Gilliver, LSO Principal Cello, penned a tribute to her colleague.

Jennie joined the LSO on 2 May 1982 after having been a member at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden for five years, a job she won whilst still a student at the Royal Academy of Music. She was the third member of the Brown dynasty to play with the LSO:

'My grandfather, Andrew Brown joined the LSO in 1930. I know that for sure as I have his LSO share certificate, which is a thing of beauty – all swirls and calligraphy. He sat next to the Leader, William Reed. There is a great photograph of them both at Abbey Road Studios with Edward Elgar on the podium. My father James Brown joined the LSO Horn section in the late 1970s. I have his share certificate too. He was Assistant Principal at the time. It was such a pleasure and honour to work with my Dad for ten years. Anyone who knew him would know we had a lot of fun as we toured around the world together.

I am very proud that my daughter, Katie (Smith, not Brown) has been working as a guest player with the LSO Trumpet section for the last three years. And so it seems I have come full circle, and I am now looking forward to retirement.'

When Jennie joined, there was only one other female Member (excluding harps). Retired Member Lennox Mackenzie, LSO Chair for many years and one of Jennie’s greatest friends, said: 'I always thought that Jennie was the perfect person to set in motion, and to influence the necessary and much desired change, from what had (gob-smackingly) historically been a virtually all-male orchestra. I was proved so right about that, and a happier, better orchestra evolved in all ways: in performance, humility, behaviour and friendly atmosphere. We can celebrate that, and Jennie has more to do with it than she will ever admit or possibly know, through her warm all-welcoming demeanour, her values, her professionalism and her superb playing. Jennie has dedicated her life to the LSO and my respect for her is boundless.'

Jennie formed a piano trio with Gillian Findlay (a fellow LSO Member) and Liz Marcus, and they have played together successfully for many years. Recently she has also joined other LSO and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra colleagues in a new string quartet venture, with their first concert made even more exciting by a power cut! Despite the mishap, the show went on and they lit up the village with their playing – boding very well for the future! 

She has also been dedicated to LSO Discovery, working with youngsters, coaching orchestral groups and occasionally participating in contemporary music workshops.

There is one peculiar quirk about Jennie that simply has to be mentioned. On every single tour she doesn’t just pack concert clothes, toiletries and the usual suspects - there is always a certain breakfast condiment hiding in her luggage. I asked her for 'Brown’s Top Touring Tip' … 'I have always taken a small pot of Marmite on tour with me. I can’t live without it. It improves even the dullest bread or crackers. Smeared on really good bread it is heaven! But I have learned the hard way that it must be packed in a plastic bag in my suitcase. Recently packing for a tour, I hurriedly stuffed it into my new (white) trainers. Somehow the pot leaked during the flight. Opening my suitcase was not a good moment! Note to self: reuse and treasure plastic bags.'

Jennie’s plans for the future include walking the Coast to Coast path with partner Ian, volunteering in her village community shop and finally, bringing home the next furry bundle in a long line of much-loved collie dogs.

On a personal note, ever since I have known Jennie, she has been incredibly supportive, professional, an instinctive orchestral player of great artistry, and a great friend. After a career of 45 years, it’s inspiring how much Jennie still loves music (as long as we don’t mention the Beethoven Violin Concerto or Mahler 5!) and we share the trait of the occasional tear escaping during particularly moving concerts. Once famously described as ‘the glue of the cello section', we will all miss her greatly and look forward to spotting her frequently in the audience.

> Read: This month we also say a fond farewell to fellow LSO Cello, Noël Bradshaw

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