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Adrian A. Smith

b. Kingston-upon-Hull, 28 October 1931

d. Huddersfield, 6 December 2005

From Pauline Thorburn (née Carter): , pupil of Adrian’s at St. Gregorys (1960 – 1967)

Adrian came into my life, as "Brother Smith" when he joined the teaching staff of St. Gregory's Grammar School, in September 1963, and I went into the Fourth Form. He was both my form teacher, English teacher and later to be my history teacher. He was an inspiration and made me want to excel.

He promoted a life-long appreciation of music. For my holidays in July 1964 I had saved up five pounds, which in those days was a fortune. When we stopped in Conway, North Wales, before reaching our final destination, I came across a shop that was selling a new "cheap" label – "Music for Pleasure". I bought two records, at ten shillings each[1] - Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Grieg’s Peer Gynt. I thought I was at the cutting edge of musical appreciation and that Adrian would be impressed by my new-found prowess in critical understanding of music.

Regretfully, I can't recall how impressed Adrian was but, even so, these records laid the shaky foundations of what has become an extensive and eclectic collection of
recordings which ranges from early music to present day. My musical appreciation did improve over the years, and I remember a very exciting performance of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony that led me to buy a decent recording.

Later, I attended a concert where I heard the Slaithwaite Phil’s rendition of this work. Afterwards, I plucked up the courage to give Adrian my opinion - that it was quite the worst interpretation I had ever heard, and was to my mind unrecognisable. Needless to say, he thought I was extremely impertinent [2].

[1] For those unfamiliar with the old Sterling currency, that adds up to one pound (Paul Serotsky)

[2] Thus it seems that, when Adrian started working as a critic for the Huddersfield Examiner, he was already familiar with unflinching critical candour! (Paul Serotsky)

From Jean Gooden, SPO oboe/cor anglais player (retired) -

I played oboe/cor anglais in the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra for about 35 years. Adrian introduced the orchestra to many works that I did not know at all. Some of these were very difficult, but under Adrian’s guidance they grew on me at each rehearsal and I really enjoyed the challenges that he set us*. The orchestra gained awards for these innovative programmes. He was also ambitious in his choice of soloists and we had some truly exciting experiences.

Adrian's knowledge of music was very wide and I admired him also for his abilities in history and English. He was a great character and will be very much missed.

* Whilst I won't argue with her judgement, I think that Jean is being too modest. She often struggled with the short but very difficult cor anglais solos that composers are wont to pop into their works, but the SPO's performance of Suk's mighty Asrael Symphony was her finest hour. Sadly, I missed it, but I am told that, at the end, before even acknowledging the applause himself, Adrian beckoned Jean to her feet . . . [Paul Serotsky]

From Christopher Woodhead, SPO Secretary and Violinist -

Adrian Smith made a lasting contribution to the musical life of Kirklees, and had an immense impact on the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra, where he will be remembered as without question the most influential figure in its 114-year history. On joining the SPO as conductor in 1969 the orchestra was in poor health with a mere handful of members and not the slightest possibility of mounting a serious concert. 32 years later he strode proudly onto the platform of a packed Huddersfield Town Hall, to direct a fully-fledged, award-winning symphony orchestra in an emotional farewell concert of orchestral works chosen from the many highlights of his distinguished conducting career.

Ever-enthusiastic and brimming with boundless energy, he inspired the orchestra to pursue his bold policy of championing the unknown, the adventurous and the rarely performed parts of the orchestral repertoire. Not afraid to take risks, when others counselled caution he challenged the accepted boundaries of programme planning for the "amateur" orchestra. He drove the SPO to achieve great success with performances of symphonies which, until then, many had thought to be the sole preserve of professionals.

Latterly he became known as a forthright music critic with the Huddersfield Daily Examiner. He was not always popular and often controversial, but his informed, incisive, consistent and rigorous reports of concerts throughout the Huddersfield area gained him the respect of many musicians. I have played in numerous concerts where the word has been spread around that . . . "we had better perform well tonight – Adrian Smith is reporting!

From Jenny Carter, pupil of Adrian's at St. Gregory’s* (1971 - 8), SPO
violinist (1971 - 85, then occasionally until mid-1990s) -

Adrian played a part in my life for as long as I can remember. Even when I was very small I had already heard of him, because he was my older sister's form tutor and teacher. By the time I was eleven I was in both the choir and orchestra of All Saints’ School *, as well as the Slaithwaite Phil., miming on the back desk of the second violins! - and he conducted all three of them. In later years, he became my piano teacher, unpaid because he refused any payment for the lessons.

He continued to be a great friend, always ready for a good argument, and keeping me up to date with the goings-on in the musical world of Huddersfield though his e-mails and so on. I owe it entirely to Adrian that my social life still revolves around  music, although I'm confident that he wouldn't have liked our rock band!

For me, Adrian’s witticisms were a constant source of amusement. There is one in particular that still makes me laugh every time I clean - or more accurately, think about cleaning - the TV screen:

One Saturday morning I arrived for my piano lesson to find Adrian busy cleaning up because his mother was coming to stay. He asked us to help him look for places he'd missed. We happily obliged, and soon discovered a thick layer of dust covering the TV screen. He wiped it off and commented, "Ah, that's better - now we'll be able to see Bruce Forsythe in his true colours!"

* St. Gregory’s became All Saints’ High School in 1973 (Paul Serotsky)

From Graham Moon – SPO Timpanist (1981- )

It was a chance remark to Stuart Marsden, in October 1981, which led to my becoming the timpanist in Slawit* Phil.  Under Adrian's conductorship I have played in many marvellous performances of repertoire which many amateur orchestras could only dream of performing in public.

I especially remember the concert which included Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, just 10 years ago, and concerts in the Centenary Season (1991-2), which included Shostakovich’s Seventh, Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto (with Peter Donohoe), John Adams's The Chairman Dances, Lutoslawski's Paganini Variations and Elgar's The Music Makers.

I will always treasure Adrian's enthusiasm for all the music we performed.  It is absolutely true that he challenged the players and developed the SPO so that we played taxing programmes which were also musically rewarding.  Adrian's promotion - among others - of Elgar, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, and Arnold enabled us to acquire a deeper understanding of many works by these composers. Following our Town Hall Celebration Concert in October 1989, commemorating Adrian's 20 years of conductorship, we felt that the sky was the limit.

The next 12 years saw both a consolidation of what we had already achieved and a scaling of new musical heights.  Andrzej Panufnik's Sinfonia Sacra, already mentioned by Stuart, was another triumph.

I must also mention Adrian's willingness to give soloists from the Orchestra the opportunity to perform concertos.  I will always remember the four concerts at which I played, not timpani concertos (!) but piano concertos, by Beethoven, Bartók, Mozart and Rawsthorne.

Adrian leaves an immense musical legacy. We in the SPO have lost a remarkable friend.  May he rest in peace.

* As anyone who has read Adrian’s book, An Improbable Centenary, will tell you, there are no fewer than four pronunciations of "Slaithwaite". Whilst strangers will say "Slay-thwaite" and the local gentry "Slath-waite", the common folk will say "Slah-wit" (short "a" and "i"), and the died-in-the-wool, traditional Yorkshireman simply "Slah’t" (long "a")! [Paul Serotsky]




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