Must read: An orchestra player laments her favourite audience membermain
From Elisabeth Wiklander, cellist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra:
We were playing Britten’s War Requiem in Royal Festival Hall when I first spotted you, my dear friend. You stunned me, sitting there in the audience. A stranger, but looking just like my beloved grandpa who had passed away only a few months before. You looked like a man who had memories from the war, and seeing you moved me to tears through the entire performance. Soon I spotted you in yet another concert. And then another one. You came regularly, always sitting on the end chair of the centre front stalls on row 3.
Soon it was my routine to always look for you when entering the stage. Two years of wondering who you were passed and I thought to myself that I must know you. One day your chair will be forever empty and I’d regret not saying hi to you, not knowing whom I’ve looked for every concert during those years. So one day I went to front of house where the audience dwell during interval. I found you and I introduced myself, sharing the whole strange story with you. We became friends. I became friends with your friends and there wasn’t one time you attended that we didn’t meet in the interval and talked.
For three years we did this and at 99 years old, you were still a faithful concert goer, always looking so presentable… and who went home from our concerts by bus to Dulwich! When you turned 98 I gave you a birthday card signed by many orchestra members, including the conductor Vladimir Jurowski.
You were so happy about that and I was so pleased you treasured it so much you even brought it to hospital when you broke some ribs from a fall, caught pneumonia and still lived it through and came back to concerts! You were bright, witty and passionate about symphonic music and opera.
You were so delightful, so lovely, so knowledgable and I think your memory was better than mine! I was looking forward to our lunch date with your friends in two weeks time to celebrate your 100th birthday, but it seems our Lord has called you home to have the big celebration in a better place. How empty your chair will be. How I’ll miss you. But I’m so privileged to have known you and so happy I went to make your acquaintance! You had an amazingly rich, long life. Rest in peace dearest Paul Steiner.