At last night’s LSO concert of the Mozart Requiem, principal flute Gareth Davies paid tribute in the programme book to his friend, principal oboe Kieron Moore, who died three months ago of cancer. Kieron’s widow, Nicky, has asked for his beautiful reminiscence to be shared with the entire music community.
I can still remember the first time I heard him. It was 1990, I was a first year student at the Guildhall next door and an oboe playing friend of mine had acquired tickets to an LSO concert. We sat exactly where where you are reading this. At the end of the first movement of the Brahms violin concerto a stillness came over the orchestra, the soloist turned his back on the audience, the conductor ushered in the opening of that famous slow movement; two bassoons in thirds and then two horns in octaves. That is when I heard him. The oboe melody floated out across the hall with such fragility in the sound that for two minutes, 2000 people seemed to stop breathing for fear of breaking the line. A sound that could melt and break hearts at the same time, with an inner core so intense it took my breath away. I had never heard anything like it. As the movement drew to a close, I turned to my friend and asked who it was. He just turned and smiled like I had stumbled upon his secret, “That is Kieron Moore…”
Kieron had joined the London Symphony Orchestra a year earlier in 1989 after brief spells in the Halle and BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra. Whilst a pupil of Lady Barbirolli, at the age of 16 he was awarded a scholarship to Royal Academy of Music. Such was his talent that he won all of the wind prizes including the oboe prize when he was in his first year. I could list many awards and accolades, but Kieron would squirm with embarrassment – he was much more comfortable giving compliments than receiving them. In an age where, even in classical music, the more noise you make, the more you seem to be heard, Kieron was exactly the opposite. On stage, he was quiet and contemplative; rather than outward showmanship, he could silence a room and draw you in to glimpse his musical soul. Rather than flashy attention grabbing displays, his unfurling of a simple melody, the hardest skill of all, won him admirers on and off stage. An intuitive orchestral musician, he knew how to play a supportive role when needed and then the exact moment to rise above the main texture. It was typical of him that after performing yet another stunning solo, the conductor would stand him up to take a bow, he would reluctantly rise from his chair and groan very loudly, then promptly sit back down again as quickly as possible. Always the minimum of fuss. Having first heard him from where you sit, I can tell you that taking the chair next to him for a decade was a dream come true for me, a musical partnership which I will never be able to replace.
The quiet, gentle man had a sparkle in his eye with a ruthless sense of humour. His comments in rehearsals, which were perfectly judged to be heard by colleagues but just inaudible to conductors, often had the oboe section helpless with laughter behind their stands whilst Kieron smiled serenely at the suspicious maestro. Naturally mischievous, he loved it when things didn’t quite go according to plan. He was almost helpless with laughter once when a well meaning member of the audience left their seat during a performance of a Mahler symphony to close the door as the noise from the off stage cowbells was ruining their enjoyment of the concert! A few years ago, he caused hilarity in the orchestra when a performance of Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique was interrupted by the tannoy system from the theatre next door. Kieron was waiting to play the offstage part and couldn’t understand why Sir Colin had appeared to have stopped conducting. With total silence in the hall, the little door in the back wall on stage opened, Kieron’s head poked through and asked what on earth was going on! When things go wrong nowadays, the refrain in the LSO is, Kieron would have liked that.
Around five years ago, Kieron was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. In his own typical style he embarked on a series of punishing treatments with minimal fuss and returned to work months later for a while. They were a happy few months as we were overjoyed to have him back with us. Sadly, all too soon, he was told that his battle wasn’t over, and shortly before more operations, he played his last concert with the LSO leaving a huge void at the heart of the orchestra. He took the opportunity to spend as much time as possible sailing his boat on the South coast with his wife Nicky and often with groups of friends. His job in the orchestra was left vacant should he ever be able to return, but sadly it was not to be. After five years of facing his illness, on October 21st last year, Kieron passed away surrounded by his family.
At that moment, the LSO was in New York City and the news of his passing was announced on stage to a shocked room. There was silence. After a few minutes the inevitable rehearsal began and that violin concerto by Brahms sung out into an empty Avery Fisher Hall. Valery ushered in the opening of that famous slow movement; two bassoons in thirds and then two horns in octaves. The oboe melody rang out into the darkness. Friends and colleagues looked at the floor and once again, that tune broke our hearts.
Tonights concert is played in his memory. What could be more appropriate than Mozart’s Requiem. Wonderful music for a wonderful man. Along with the oboe section, I am not playing in the second half, Mozart neglected to include us in his masterpiece and so we will go home early. Kieron would have liked that.