The following message was printed in last night’s programme of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, a tribute to John Ward, the orchestra’s principal percussion for almost 30 years. John Ward died this week, aged 91.
Writing about John Ward, the problem is where to start. I am anything but unbiased; when I was a small boy he was my total hero, more than any football player, and I am sure that has not changed much over the years. He was a great teacher and one of the funniest, sweetest and most generous of men. He was of course a consummate percussionist, and I am sure his famous snare drum roll is still the ideal for generations of players. But, in fact, he played all the instruments wonderfully, in a time where one really had to play everything, and often with one or two players short of the ideal.
Anyone who saw him with Fritz Spiegl (now I am showing my age) will remember what a completely natural and brilliant clown he was, a master of gesture and graceful slapstick. He seemed to me, then and now, somehow the beating heart of the orchestra, a personality who will ever remain embedded in the walls and the memory of the Phil. I hope he realised how much he was loved and respected, and we will miss him and carry him in our hearts. Wardie, thank you….
Sir Simon Rattle