The Phil’s concert on Saturday 12 November 2011 began with a performance of Sibelius’ Valse Triste, played in acknowledgement of the death in July of Mary Rafferty, leader of the orchestra from 1988 to 2009. The choice of music was made in conjunction with Mary’s husband, Ken. Along with the words below, which appeared in the concert programme, this was a demonstration of the affection and esteem in which Mary was held by those who knew her, both within Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra and more widely across the musical community of Yorkshire.
From Mary Barber:
I (as deputy leader) sat next to Mary Rafferty for 20 years in Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Valley Sinfonia (the orchestra that accompanies the Holmfirth Choral) and in the orchestra for the Huddersfield Gilbert and Sullivan’s annual production at the LBT.
She was a brilliant person to have as leader: encouraging, supportive, positive and smiling, and she never appeared to get stressed on the big occasions. Her solos were always played to perfection: never a wobble or an out-of-tune note…She had a really good relationship with all the players in the orchestra, and worked hard to encourage new players and support the established players.
Mary and I had a lot of fun together, both musically and socially. We spent many happy times together: playing music, sharing lifts to rehearsals and performances, and generally trying to put the world to rights.
She taught piano to our daughter Sarah anad violin to my husband Nick, the lessons always involving focussed tuition, interspersed with fun and laughter (not to mention the coffee afterwards).
We will miss her greatly both as a musician and as a friend.
Derri and Margaret O’Sullivan’s contribution:
Mary’s Saturday morning visits to teach all four children piano and music theory are a vivid and pleasant memory. She was interested in everyone, always pleasant and would calmly proceed to teach whatever the mood or attire, one sleepy teenager would regularly appear in a dressing gown. The lessons were always punctuated by morning coffee, sometimes alfresco, and it was always a pleasure for everyone to be in her encouraging and enlightened company.
From Julie Townend:
Known for her efficient and professional leadership; apart from rehearsing and performing, Mary spent very many hours bowing parts for the orchestra and attending meetings.
She worked as a peripatetic music teacher for Kirklees and later Barnsley Instrumental Music Service and the Performing Arts Development Service (PADS). Following massive cuts in the funding of music, she continued to teach across the full age range, developing instrumental group tuition. She supported class music in Barnsley Primary Schools with the introduction of the National Curriculum and also worked with a number of Music Centre groups, including Wentworth Strings. Such was her popularity, that a number of ex-students travelled from Barnsley to play at her funeral reception. Her piano skills were much in demand, especially at Associated Board examination time, and she continued to teach privately up until a few days of her entering the hospice. I often had to remind myself of the seriousness of her illness – her energy and enthusiasm was boundless, and her approach stoical.
Mary loved her garden. She had amazing green fingers. I never saw any of her plants in anything but peak condition. She loved cooking, cross-stitch, decoupage and jigsaws – the bigger and harder the better!
She was a great friend, generous, a good listener and excellent company. Birthdays were never forgotten and we always received a postcard from her travels. We are going to miss her enormously but feel privileged to have known her. She will not be forgotten.