Remembering Tony Byrne, former Co-Principal Viola

We were saddened to learn of the death of former LPO Co-Principal Viola Tony Byrne on 2 December 2021, following a long illness.

Tony joined the Orchestra in 1974 and played as Co-Principal for many years before stepping down to become a member of the section in 2006, and eventually retiring in 2010. His colleague and friend, LPO violist Kate Leek, writes:

‘“There’s only one Tony Byrne!” A familiar chant from the back of Bus 3 on tour, which he always acknowledged with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. We have lost one of the loveliest and most generous-spirited of colleagues. He was passionate about the music, loved playing chamber music, and practised every spare moment on his beautiful old Italian viola. His wife Christine once said that he felt guilty if he didn’t practise on Christmas Day!

Tony was a proud Irishman who loved walking, whether this was at home exploring the South Downs and lanes of East Sussex, or on tour when he would walk for miles exploring, usually at twice the pace of anyone else. Being of a chatty disposition, he will also be fondly remembered for the many entertaining and enthusiastic tours of the opera house at Glyndebourne he gave for the Orchestra’s supporters over the years. Countless tributes from friends and colleagues all agree that Tony was fun, kind, warm-hearted and welcoming towards everybody, with a wicked sense of humour.  He had an infinite capacity for friendship and an ability to make everybody feel better about themselves. Truly – “There’s only one Tony Byrne!”’

LPO Leader Pieter Schoeman added: ‘Tony was a gentleman. He was also one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. During those early years when I started playing with the LPO, he very quickly became one of my best friends. Some of my favourite moments were the meals we had after concerts on tour, because Tony had the ability to always lift my spirits with his humour.’

Our thoughts are with Tony’s widow Christine and his wider family, friends and colleagues.