On Sunday 12 June we say a fond farewell to Principal Cor Anglais Christine Pendrill, one of our longest-serving Members and a prominent presence on the end of the front row of the woodwind section. Principal Flute Gareth Davies has written this tribute to his colleague.
It seems almost unbelievable to me that today marks Christine’s final concert as a member of the London Symphony Orchestra. Apart from the fact that she is at the height of her powers as a musician and with more experience of playing at world-class level than most of us can dream of, for all of us in the orchestra she's been a constant in an ever-changing landscape.
She worked with the LSO for the first time in February 1979, was frequently the only woman on stage and wasn't provided with a dressing room! In 1985, she was invited to become a Member and was shortly after elected as the first female member of the Board of Directors. You can imagine that since then there are enough stories and memories to fill a book (perhaps a retirement project alongside her increasingly productive allotment), but I can clearly remember as a student in the 1990s hearing that sound for the first time from the cheap seats in the Barbican. Sitting in the hall this evening, you all know about 'that' sound, and it will be no surprise that she is sought after as a teacher as well as inspiring composers to write for her, notably the classic The World’s Ransoming by James MacMillan. Of the many film composers who have written for her, the one that stays in the memory the longest is perhaps Gabriel Yared's score for The English Patient. It's indescribably good. The long soulful, heartbreaking lines that she plays are astonishing because … well, just listen to them. But also because they are so unlike her personality, which is happy-go-lucky, optimistic and always with a smile for everyone (although her social media posts about train travel are a notable exception).
By the time I joined the LSO, the legendary oboe section alongside her – Roy Carter, Kieron Moore and John Lawley – had been playing together for around 20 years; a rarity in this profession. As the section gradually changed it has been a lesson to us all to see how she has helped and encouraged a new generation of players bed into the orchestra, with her own brand of self deprecating humour, wisdom and knowing just the right time to make a suggestion. Playing in an orchestra is, after all, about timing.
But the time has come and I can already hear Christine's joking response if I say that she is leaving a large hole in the woodwind section … but she is. You in the the audience will all miss her stunning musicianship. We in the orchestra will too, but we will also miss our friend. When we rehearse tomorrow morning for the next project and someone from a new generation is sitting in her chair, it will feel a little less like the LSO than the day before.