The earliest known picture of Alan Stringer MBE
Yesterday marked a very special day. An event was hosted by members of the RLPO and family members to celebrate the life of the great Alan Stringer. We converged on The Fly In The Loaf at 1pm, near Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, to remember a remarkable man.
The great Alan Stringer – always joyful.
Alan was not only one of the finest trumpeters on the planet but was also regarded as the nicest human being anyone could wish to meet. As a trumpeter he contributed at the highest level in every category and as a man he led by example. Sadly, Alan died last year, so after a period of mourning it was decided to host a celebration of Alan’s life. It is said that five minutes playing by one of the world’s geniuses is worth a whole lifetime of the playing of others. Alan would certainly have fitted into this category. Younger players of this generation would do well to listen to Alan’s superb playing with the RLPO on the extensive, popular, and readily available, ‘Classics for Pleasure’ series of recordings issued by EMI. There, you will hear Alan at his best. He was largely self-taught, but always knew how the music should sound and how he wanted it to go.
CLICK HERE FOR THE NEWS ON ALAN’S PASSING (and a wonderful Eulogy by the legendary Stuart Hastain)
A day of ‘joy’ for all who could attend. Alan had been Principal Trumpet of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 1953 to 1993, except for one year, 1960-61, when he left to take up the post of Principal Trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra. Alan returned to Liverpool after one year, preferring life in his native North of England. He has one of the best selling recordings of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in the world.
He turned down a request to audition for the Berlin Philharmonic as a young man. At the age of sixteen, Alan was Principal Cornet of the famous Besses o’th Barn Brass Band and has the unique accolade of winning the best cornet soloist prize and the best soprano cornet soloist in the same contest performance! Alan also served as Principal Cornet of the RAF Central Band. Alan also served as a revered mentor to his colleagues and to his many students, now leading lights in the professional trumpet world, as a long standing Professor of Trumpet at the Royal Northern College of Music and tutor of trumpet at Chetham’s School of Music (when I was there!!!).
Alan Stringer leading the fanfare team of the RAF Central Band
When talking to Alan, his astonishing career stories and achievements were always a pleasure to listen to. At the same time, he was a humble man and the listener would never feel they were talking to one of the greatest trumpeters in the world. This blog will not have too many words as none are really necessary, for those who knew Alan. Alan himself was never guilty of saying too many words: simply enough. Just some pictures of Alan’s history and a gallery of the great and good who attended this wonderful day. Enjoy! Alan would not have had it any other way…
The RLPO had had distinguished Principal Trumpets before. This is the last programme of the season prior to Alan joining. The great Ron Wild, who left to grace the Philharmonia at Decca with Denis Brain etc was just one. Alan set an altogether new standard though!
My favourite Alan Stringer story, and there are sooo many wonderful tales, is about my own experience and Alan was not even involved. The great Maurice Murphy, another genius (Star Wars etc), was taking a masterclass when I was a kid. It came to my turn to play, and I still think I played to the best of my ability, and Maurice broke my heart by playing my piece back to me with such poise, grace and sweetness of sound that I just felt crest fallen. I was completely mesmerised. Anyway, I had enough brass neck to pick myself up and pluck up the courage to cheekily demand, “… How do you get to be that good?!” Maurice replied, matter-of-factly, “… You do what I did, lad. Get your Dad to take you down to Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and listen to the best trumpet player in the world. ALAN STRINGER!”
The first concert programme to feature ALAN STRINGER
Alan takes his place in the orchestra for the first time. Tommy Wrigley, bass trombone and Alan Stringer went to school together.
Another legendary Principal Trumpet, Alan Whitehead, who graced the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for over forty years, told me that he and Alan Stringer started out in the same youth band as together. What are the chances of that happening?! I stayed with Alan Whitehead (another lovely, humble man).
Alan’s first concert programme with the orchestra.
He played me countless very old recordings of famous trumpeters and cornet players. Old 78s of Bram Gay, Harry Mortimer (himself principal of the RLPO for a decade before the outbreak of WW2), a young Maurice Murphy on reel-to-reel playing live as a soloist at the age of fifteen on a tour of the United States as guest soloist with one of their famous wind bands, Jack Macintosh and so many more.
Alan was playing the most difficult repertoire within a couple of weeks – with apparent ease!
Total reverence was reserved for later, however. Alan Whitehead showed me up to my bedroom in the early hours. The door creaked open, a spider’s web stretched and a four poster bed was revealed. He said, in hushed tones, “… This is the bed that Alan Stringer slept in!”
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO ALAN STRINGER PLAYING ‘THE TRUMPET SHALL SOUND’ – bizarrely the only clip of this I could find is entitled ‘Proof the God exists!’
RLPO Trumpets 1955 – Alan Stringer, Handel Hone and John Underwood
1954 – first appearance of legendary local trumpet extra Bill Flood
I find it awe inspiring to see the list of old legends coming to play fourth trumpet and as extras etc with Alan Stringer: also some of the famous names who came to the orchestra as members, working alongside Alan. The great cornet player, Norman Archibald of The Fairey Band, who gave Maurice Murphy some early lessons, for instance.
Ifor James joining the orchestra on 1st horn – 1955
A proud moment for Alan and the RLPO in 1957
Please feel free to add any stories, recollections or anecdotes about Alan Stringer in the comments section. They will be shared freely amongst his many friends, admirers, colleagues and family…
March 1961 – during Alan Stringer’s year as Principal with LSO legendary RLPO horn Mike Ogonovsky joins and was to remain with the orchestra for 44 years!
1961 – a young Maurice Murphy makes his 1st appearance as a third trumpet extra with the RLPO – Alan was in London as Principal of the LSO that year
It was a fabulous day and many famous trumpeters and brass players, of generations past and stars of the present came. What a remarkable and rare occurrence.
13th November 1962 – 1st appearance of Stuart Hastain – Alan’s 2nd trumpet for over twenty years
On Alan’s return from the LSO, a young Maurice Murphy appearing as an extra ‘learning his trade’ from Alan, as he told me.
Alan’s sons, Jim & Malcolm, told a rather amusing story during the speeches. Part of the reason for yesterday being the chosen date for the memorial celebration was that the brothers were over from France to bring Alan’s ashes back from his retirement home in France. It transpires that customs dictate that ‘remains’ must be handed over in a plastic bag upon entering the UK. The only bag available to the lads was a bag with ‘BODY SHOP’ emblazoned on the side. Alan would have loved that!
November 1963 – 1st appearance of the legend that is Bill Stokes!
1966 – An appearance by The Halle in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall with an amazing line-up including John Hardy who was in attendance yesterday
An appearance by a young trumpeter called Syney Ellison in 1967 – who went on to big things in London and became a much loved Professor at tthe Ryal Academy of Music
An appearance of the section of the CBSO helping out the RLPO, plus the first appearance of extra trumpet Gwyn Williams – a student of Alan’s who went on to great things as a producer for the BBC and cornet champion of Great Britain Jim Scott
It was possibly in the 1960s when Alan was at the height of his considerable fame. Chief conductor Charles Groves was a huge admirer of Alan’s playing and the orchestra regularly utilised Alan’s talents as a soloist and as one of the RLPO stars in publicity material.
Here are two contrasting publicity shots of Alan. One as a young handsome devil and a mature Alan. He was such a good player that he was always considered at the height of his fame, even though these two photos are many years apart.
A potted history of the great man
It was said that a copy of the Haydn Trumpet concerto was always kept on the RLPO lorry in case the audience demanded an encore when the orchestra was on it’s wide ranging travels!
The 1974 recording of piccolo trumpet and organ works with Noel Rawsthorne in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
The famous Messiah
As already stated, Alan was an internationally regarded soloist. Above are two of his better known commercial recordings.
You can buy and listen to free samples of Alan Stringer and Noel Rawsthorne on their Piccolo Trumpet & Organ Recording by clicking here.
Alan was not noted for having a particularly good memory and was indeed a touch accident prone. Travelling to London, getting the train home, then realising he had driven there in his car. Forgetting his tails, and first flute, Fritz Spiegel, dressing him in a black curtain and drawing a bow tie on white card – Alan then went on stage. Sitting on his trumpet, squashing it flat as he sat on the concert stage about to begin.
… A primary source account, “…
Forgetting his D trumpet (as was used in those days) for The Messiah, shrugging his shoulders and playing it on the B flat trumpet instead without a care in the world. His sense of humour was legendary. One conductor kept doing the hard bit of Also Sprach over and over so Alan reversed the octaves for a laugh! He played the off stage solo in the Leonore overture no 2 at Llanduddno Theatre dressed in only a bow-tie and traditional Welsh ladies’ hat – only the orchestra could see him! Well, sorry for the history lesson now on to yesterday’s proceedings…
ALAN STRINGER – A Memorial Celebration – The ROGUES GALLERY
Des Worthington RIP (Alan’s long serving 2nd trumpet after Stuart Hastain for ten years), Alan Stringer and John Quirk seated (now co-Principal Trumpet CBSO) Both men were students of Alan
The legendary Bill Stokes – what a star! Bill had a hip replacement but that didn’t stop him getting to the do. Bill’s T-shirt was bought for him by the late great Malcolm Smith – it depicts all the red wine stains of the world!
Murray Grieg, Principal Trumpet Opera North (left) and Rhys Owens current RLPO Principal Trumpet. Both men are Professors of Trumpet RNCM
BBC Philharmonic Principal Percussion Rob Lea and former BBC Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Patrick ‘Paddy’ Addinall
RLPO Trumpet Section Istanbul mid 1980s. Des Worthington, Ian Balmain and Alan Stringer going for a swim!
RLPO Trumpets early 1990s – l to r – Ian Balmain, Rhys Owens, Des Worthinhton and the great Alan Stringer
Bob Nicholas, Eric Jennings, Alan Stringer, Blyth Lindsay & Mike Ogonovsky
Alan’s 65 birthday – l to r- Rhys Owens, Alan, Stuart Hastain, Des Worthington and Ian Balmain
Alan the keen rambler
Slide partners – two retired RLPO 2nd trombones – Steve Wortley and Blyth Lidsay
Former RLPO Principal Timpanist, The Dean of Percussive Arts himself, Ian Wright with top percussionist Jenny Marsden
Alan’s sense of humour was deadly!
Bill Stokes, RLPO Associate Principal Horn Dave Pigott, Former RLPO Principal Piccolo Myra Bennett and Alan
Two legendary brass players – Stuart Hastain talking about good old times with Mike Ogonovsky – in the background Dave Pigott, Master of Ceremonies John Hebbron and Danny Hammerton
Great tribute cake!
Alan’s proud sons – Malcolm & Jim Stringer
l to r – front Dave Pigott & Danny Hammerton – background – The great John Dickinson, John Worthington (son of Des Worthington), Ian Wright & former RLPO Bass Trombone John Langford
The great John Dickinson, brass teacher extraordinaire Julie Baker and John W. Worthington Esq.
John Langford, Eric Jennings, Barbara Lindsay, Linda Langford & Fizz Jennings
Bill Stokes demonstrating some of the techniques that have kept him at the very top of the trumpet profession for so many years!
Alan’s laughter was so infectious he could even have ‘scary’ maestro Marek Janowski in stitches!
Murray Grieg (back to us), RLPO 2nd trumpet Paul Marsden, Head of Brass Chetham’s School of Music Dave Chatterton, Rhys Owens and RLPO Bass Danny Hammerton
Julie Baker, Toko & Jenny Marsden – all sorts of folk in the background!
Avril Schleppens, Mr & Mrs Andy Jones, Dave Pigott, Mike Ogonovsky, Jim Stringer and Malcolm Stringer
A nice picture featuring many of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden boys who came. John Hardy Dave, Pigott, Dave Carstairs, Ian Balmain, John Langford, Linda Langford, John Hebbron, Martin Taggart, George Smith, Rob Lea
Pauline & Stuart Hastain, Linda & John Langford, John Hardy, Mike Ogonovsky, & the back of Ian Balmain’s head!
The amazing trumpeter and pedagog John Dickinson and myself. John has been desperately trying to set me a good example since ever since my school days. What a great mentor.
Dave Chatterton, John Dickinson, Myself and Head of Liverpool Music Service Louise Hough
Dominic Dom Starkey in the background
Ian Wright & Jenny Marsden again!
Decor in ‘The Fly In The Loaf’
The great Alan Stringer
Proceedings in full swing
The view from The Fly In The Loaf
So many familiar faces – great shot of former RLPO horn Martin Taggart laughing. Libor Pesek once famously remarked, “… Yes, I see the trouble colleagues. It is the ‘F’ in 2nd horn!
How many faces can you spot? I think I can name just about all of them… Former Welsh National Opera Principal Trumpet Terry Lax, for one.
More fine friends. Guests were invited to share their memories of Alan at this point. There were many moving tributes and stories…
A great occasion!
Alan Stringer’s sons, Jim & Malcolm, tell us all what their father meant to them.
Malcolm telling us all how they had to bring Alan Stringer’s ashes back in a ‘Body Shop’ plastic carrier bag!
Dave Carstairs, formerly of the RPO, now 2nd trumpet at the Royal Opera House, telling what Alan Stringer meant to him.
All having a few private thoughts about the great man that was Alan Stringer
You look ready for another, Bill!
Ian Wright, Pauline Alston, Myra Bennett, John Hardy and Andy Jones listening to individuals relate their thoughts about Alan
So much laughter & happy memories!
Mike Ogonovsky’s turn to speak about Alan…
Let’s raise a toast to Alan and remember all the happy times…
More of the speeches
I can just see Chris Wright peeping over Dave Pigott’s shoulder
Former RLPO Principal Trombone Eric Jennings’ turn to speak
Jim & Malcolm Stringer cut to tribute cake to their father
More cake cutting from Jim & Malcolm Stringer
Nice shot of former RLPO Principal Tuba George Smith. George is now a piano tuner in Granada, Spain.
Current RLPO Principal Trumpet Rhys Owens with Malcolm Stringer
From left – Paul Marsden RLPO, Dave Carstairs ROH (former RPO), Murray Grieg Pricipal Trumpet Opera North, John Hardy Principal Cornet Royal Opera and me!
That’s me signing the tribute card for Alice Stringer, Alan’s widow
What a great photo! The legendary trumpeter Bill Stokes, The great Ian Balmain Principal Trumpet Royal Opera House Covent Garden former Principal Trumpet Royal Philharmonic Orchestra former Principal Trumpet Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra & John Hardy former Third Trumpet Royal Scottish National Orchestra former Principal Cornet Royal Opera House Professor of Trumpet Knellar Hall.
Blyth Lindsay, Dave Pigott and John Langford
Former Principal Piccolo Myra Bennett talking about the RLPO days with former Principal Trumpet Ian Balmain
The top of Rob Lea’s head, Stuart Hastain, Martin Taggart, Juliet Taggart, John Hebbron and Eric Jennings
Jin Stringer, Mike Ogonovsky, Rob Lea and Ian Wright
Bill Stokes & John Hardy
Me and Mine. What a lucky fella I am!
Mr & Mrs Marsden. Two of my favourite people in the world!
Me with another pint! Blyth laughing his head off as usual…
The magnificent Blyth Lindsay!
Andy Jones & Danny Hammerton
Eric Jennings & John Hebbron
Blyth & I again!
Myra & Fizz – Avril in the background talking to Mrs Jones
The cake garlanded with the main three jobs Alan has been famously associated.
Here’s to Alan!
So many memories!
Dave Chatterton, Head of Brass at Chetham’s School of Music and I have a chat about my old alma mater…
Andy Jones & Danny Hammerton
Alan Stringer in the press again!
RLPO Brass section of yesteryear
Things getting a little hazy towrds the end of the evening…
LAST ORDERS!!! Ian Balmain, Me, Dave Carstairs, & Murray Grieg.
Still loads of people here! We started at 1pm and it is now quarter past eight!!!
Back on the diet tomorrow. I’ve had my orders!
All smiles at the end of an incredible day…
Paul Marsden does a quick about turn as the Royal Opera House lads leave for the last train.
I hope you have as much pleasure reading this blog as we all had celebrating Alan Stringer’s life. One of the best trumpeters in the world and an even finer human being. As said earlier, “… Here’s to Alan!“
Alan Stringer playing with the LSO again in 1982 in the Verdi Requiem at the Edinburgh Festival. Also pictured are Maurice Murphy and Denis Wick
“… He was loved by all.” – Stuart Hastain