The first woman to manage a London orchestra

The first woman to manage a London orchestra


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2014

We’ve received sad news of the death of Louise Honeyman, last night, at the age of 80.

Louise managed the London Mozart Players in the 1980s and 1990s. She was the only woman in the country at that time who was in charge of a major ensemble and I was led to believe she was the first ever to head a London band. She was warm, funny, capable, personable, unflappable and totally dedicated to keeping her players in work.

She was also modest to the point of self-effacement. I have no picture of her, but many quiet memories.



Simon Funnell, outgoing MD of the LMP adds:

The LMP are mourning the loss of a member of the family today.  To many people, after Harry Blech retired, Louise was the LMP; as you rightly said in your tribute she was fully dedicated to the orchestra which for many years was based in an office in her house.  She worked 8am to 8pm most evenings and nobody could ever question her commitment and loyalty to this group of musicians and to ensuring they had huge amounts of work.   Louise had a Chef brought in every day to cook lunch for the office team; a daily event which brought the whole team together.  We could do with that sort of opportunity for team-building again in the orchestral sector.

In my view during her time running the orchestra she made two key decisions which had an enormous impact.  The first was to make the orchestra’s home at Fairfield Halls in Croydon, with financial funding from Croydon Council; a support which lasted 25 years.  It was a bold move to take the orchestra away from central London and to an outer London borough, but in doing say it removed the LMP from the morass of orchestras competing for audiences in central London, and gave the orchestra a solid, stable home in one of London’s best concert halls.  Secondly, she appointed Jane Glover as Britain’s first female orchestra Artistic Director, at a time when Jane Glover was one of the best known conductors around – a real media figure.  This put the LMP on the map and it was the first – and last – time that a British orchestra had women in its two most senior roles.

I only got to know Louise when I took over the LMP five years ago.  At the time she was living in Turkey, but she came to one of my first concerts and I am pretty sure it was to check out her third successor.  As a woman in her mid-70s she had learned to inhabit the demeanour of an old lady with a twinkle in her eye, which was a good cover for the steely determination which lay underneath.  If I got something wrong, or if she thought I had missed a trick, she would be certain to tell me.  In the last few years she returned to live in the UK and I saw more of her; she joined the LMP Friends and came to more of our concerts.  I particularly admired the way she took an interest in the younger, more junior members of my team, especially those who were female.  She would often bring in a speech she had made or a something of interest from her personal archive if she thought it might be of inspiration to a young woman just starting out in this business.

There was much resentment when she and Jane replaced many long-standing musicians with younger players, people like Christopher Newport, Celia Nicklin and Angela Malsbury, were the young, exciting musicians of the future of British orchestral playing, and without that new lifeblood the orchestra would never have survived.  Louise took an orchestra which was not taken too seriously and transformed it into one which was highly regarded.  Any orchestra manager needs to be a combination of steel fist wrapped in kid glove and Louise was certainly that, though the first time you met her you would invariably see only the kid glove.  She had a great sense of humour and twinkle in her eye which was utterly endearing and she never really took much credit for her enormous contribution to the orchestra and would always tell you it was the music director, or the musicians, or her team who were the real heroes.

louise honeyman


  • So sorry to hear this news. I have very strong, vivid and wonderful memories of Louise, dynamic lady, and was lucky to have been trusted and given my 1st principal double bass position with the London Mozart Players,back in 1984. RIP Louise, you flew the flag and made waves at a crucial time in our musical history.