Published in the Autumn 2009 edition of “Musician”, the magazine produced by the Musicians’ Union, and also on their online site.
I am grateful for this opportunity to remember my very dear friend, double bassist David Fletcher who died very suddenly of a heart condition on June 29th 2009. He was 37 years old.
In his short life Dave achieved much. Born in Stockton-On-Tees he started learning the piano at the age of 7 and took up the bass at 10. His total enthusiasm for the instrument led him, eventually, to the Royal Academy of Music. His youth orchestra career was a full one from the Northern Junior Philharmonic and Cleveland Youth Orchestra via Cleveland Youth Opera and the Tees Valley Youth Orchestra to the National Youth Orchestra and finally the European Community Youth Orchestra where he became Principal Bass, a rare honour for a British player.
I first met Dave Fletcher in early 1996 as he did the rounds of auditions in London having already been offered his first job as a rank and file player in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. By the time the London Symphony Orchestra offered him a similar post he was sitting Co-Principal in the Cardiff orchestra so he declined and remained in Wales until 2001. Always ambitious Dave spent a year as guest Principal Bass of the Norwegian Opera in Oslo and was offered the job on a permanent basis. Instead he decided to return to the north of England to become Principal Bass of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
It was in Liverpool, I believe, that David Fletcher found his true calling, leading a symphony orchestra bass section into battle, “riding” his mighty Italian 5-string bass and taking no prisoners. A sight to behold! I was privileged to sit next to him as a guest co-principal at “the Phil” and it was a great experience. His sound, his musicianship and his utter respect for the symphonic repertoire were marvellous, but combined with his good humour, wit and sense of mischief he was an absolute joy.
During his six years at the RLPO he also made his mark as a soloist. He performed concertos with the orchestra, gave recitals, was a featured artist on Radio 3′s “In Tune” programme, and he travelled to the United States to perform and give masterclasses. All this while being a devoted parent to two young children and a great friend and host to many. He also began to write music and my memories of visiting Liverpool to perform with Dave followed by late nights listening to his fledgling compositions while we drank bottles of red and talked for hours about music and musicians will stay with me always.
Dave Fletcher was awarded an Associateship of the Royal Academy of Music for his achievements in 2006. A year later he decided to move to London. He immediately became a busy guest principal and session player. He continued honing his writing skills. He gigged and recorded with the his old college friend, singer/guitarist Carwyn Ellis in their band, Colorama playing at Glastonbury just three days before his death. He told me how excited he was to be guest-leading the bass section of English National Opera through the recent run of Britten’s “Peter Grimes” at the Coliseum. He was ready for the next challenge and I have no doubt that, had he lived, he would have been one of London’s legendary double bass players. But it is for his personality, his sense of humour and his unbridled love of people and music that he will be remembered by all who met him.
Ken Knussen, double bass player and MU London Regional and Freelance Orchestral Committee member.