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Adrian A. Smith

b. Kingston-upon-Hull, 28 October 1931

d. Huddersfield, 6 December 2005

Contributions from
John Quinn
Paul Serotsky
Sir Malcolm Arnold, CBE
Arthur Butterworth MBE
Mathew Curtis
Keith Llewellyn
Elaine Carter
Marilyn and Dick Myers, Edgewood Symphony Orchestra
Stuart Marsden, SPO Trumpeter

From Stuart Marsden, SPO Trumpeter -

It is common knowledge that Adrian and the SPO trumpet section had a mutual love-hate relationship. When in his good books – and, yes, from time to time we were - Adrian was all sweetness and light, and fulsome in his praise. For example, take the unforgettable October 1999 concert in which we four trumpets, distributed to the four corners of the orchestra, opened Panufnik’s Sinfonia Sacra bouncing a difficult, staccato and rapid-fire musical cell between us across an otherwise silent orchestra. Standing with the backs of my knees braced against the conveniently located stage risers to stop them trembling, I managed to make my contribution to our combined success, and Adrian’s praise was indeed glowing.

Frequently, however, in rehearsals we experienced the other side of the relationship, whereby if one or other of us made an error, then regardless of who was guilty there would be an angry bellow of "TRUMPETS!" accompanied by an if-looks-could-kill glare. To this day we remain convinced that other sections of the orchestra making comparable mistakes received far less harsh treatment. In order to survive we developed thick skins – oh yes, and a vast, ready and ultimately legendary supply of both genuine and absurd excuses that sometimes broke the ice a little. Perhaps some of my errors were the result of my limited musical experience and ability, but I found it more difficult than some to follow Adrian’s beat, particularly when he went into what Ian Denton (SPO President/Flautist, retired) once described as his "forked lightning" or "circular" modes.

On any number of issues Adrian and I did not see eye to eye, but despite that we could always work well together and be productive in numerous tasks. He would frequently seek my help with computer problems and during hours of working together we unravelled many of the intricacies and techniques of graphics and desk-top-publishing (DTP) programmes. I think DTP became Adrian’s second joy after music. Certainly, he devoted much time to it including, among other activities, the production and publication of the SPO’s in-house quarterly journal, Philharmonic. Needless to say, with Adrian the finer points of grammar were always a high priority.

Adrian loved modern technology, but only as a means to an end rather than for its own sake. Even a mere seven weeks before his death, he asked me to get him onto broadband, which I duly did, and for an all-too-brief final few weeks he was absolutely delighted with it. It was while setting up the broadband that Adrian treated me to yet another critical lecture about why the SPO ought to spend much of its reserves, despite knowing full well both my own and the committee’s arguments to the contrary. As far as Adrian was concerned money was for spending, and the faster the better.

During my SPO treasuring days, on more than one occasion I had to rein in Adrian’s "spendthrift" tendencies. The one that springs most readily to mind was when he nearly purchased a few thousand pounds’ worth of timpani drums, for himself rather than the orchestra. In the run-up to our Centenary Season we obtained from the Foundation for Sports and the Arts a substantial award for new instruments. However, before we could even place an order there were several hoops to be jumped through, such as obtaining written quotations from several suppliers. As soon as I received the award, I passed the news to Adrian but he, never one to bother with observing committee decisions or following institutional protocol, took it upon himself to place an order, there and then, with his favourite supplier. I found out what he was up to just in time to get the "erroneous" order cancelled, otherwise he would have been looking for a use for his own personal set of timpani!

Adrian remained optimistic and looking to the future right to the very end. Shortly after initiating his move to broadband, and characteristically on a whim, he ordered a brand new Apple Mac computer and combined printer-scanner costing well into four figures. By this time Adrian was visibly a very sick man, unable to keep food down and moving about only with great difficulty and the aid of a walking stick and Zimmer frame. During my visits I was always struck by the frequency of other visitors to his house, including his neighbours, church and other friends, medics, home-helps, niece etc. and, by no means least, Chris and Fiona Woodhead. I happened to be at his house, in my "PC helpdesk" capacity, when the Apple Mac was delivered, so I set it up for him there and then. Neither of us knew it at the time, of course, but his demise was a mere eight days away. I doubt he had more than an hour or two of use from the machine, but at least he saw it working.

Having started to learn to play an instrument far too late in life (mid 30s) I have, so to speak, always had to run in order to stand still, and so I am truly grateful to Adrian for all the wonderful musical "back-of-the-neck tingling" experiences I have had when playing in SPO concerts. Adrian has opened my eyes to music that I never even realised existed, and my life has been greatly enriched because of it. Sometimes, in the initial rehearsals of a piece, I thought I would never like it, but have subsequently come to love it. Thank you, Adrian, for that extra, musical dimension to life that you have helped me to experience.

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