John King obituary

Other lives: Trumpeter and co-founder of the Oxford Pro Musica orchestra

In 1965, my friend and colleague John King, who has died aged 77, co-founded with the distinguished baroque trumpeter Don Smithers the Oxford Pro Musica, a professional orchestra later renamed the City of Oxford Orchestra. His collaboration with his friend Yannis Daras, the Greek conductor, with whom he shared an encyclopedic knowledge of music, ushered in a revolutionary era in the musical life of Oxford.

In its heyday the orchestra gave some 70 performances a year and attracted world class soloists such as Nigel Kennedy, Cristina Ortiz, Julian Lloyd Webber and Yannis’s friend and protege Marios Papadopoulos. The music director of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, Marios said: “John was a man of great vision and humility. He leaves a significant and enduring musical legacy.”

Born in Walkden, Lancashire, the son of Norman King, a baker, and his wife, Alice (nee Potter), John attended Bolton school, where he developed a passion for music. While reading law at Oxford University he was regularly involved in music, playing the trumpet with the Oxford University Orchestra and the Oxford Orchestral Society. He went on to perform with the Northern Sinfonia and the orchestras of Welsh National Opera and Scottish Ballet.

In collaboration with Gordon McDougall, artistic director of the Oxford Playhouse, in 1979 John formed Oxford Music Theatre, one of the first companies outside New York and London to tour a production of Tom Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. In the early 1980s John introduced an annual summer season of baroque concerts in Merton College chapel. Another highly successful collaboration came with the Oxford music professor Denis Arnold, who used the City of Oxford Orchestra as a conduit for his own research into 18th-century Italian music.

In the late 1990s John and the trumpeter Roger Payne formed La Réjouissance, an ensemble of trumpets and organ that performed many concerts in Oxford and produced a CD of the same name. More recently John contributed to feasibility studies for the creation of the Jacqueline du Pré building at St Hilda’s College and the adaptation of St John the Evangelist (SJE) into a new 500-seat concert venue for Oxford. An inspirational teacher, John was the brass coach for the Thame Vale Youth Orchestra for many years. He was a socialist and a europhile, a northerner with a dry but always compassionate sense of humour.

John is survived by his second wife, Thérèse (nee Hebert), whom he met in the 1980s and married in 2006, and by two stepsons, Nick and Luke, and six step-grandchildren, Ellie, Oskar, Konrad, Lucy, Milton and Alfie.

Isabel Knowland

The GuardianTramp

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