Kenneth Hewitt


How long have you been a member of the BPO?
I have been a member for nearly 22 years, during which time I have also served as the orchestra’s treasurer and general manager.

What inspired you to take up your instrument?
In my teens an enthusiastic teacher at school who urged budding scientists to take up the violin “to prevent narrow-mindedness” introduced me to music. Came the day we were to be allocated a violin, they were one short but had managed to string up a cello which was given to me as the tallest candidate.  At university we had an abundance of cellos but no double basses until an instrument was donated. Being the tallest (still!), it was given to me to learn in three weeks for the next concert and I continued to play the instrument for the next two years. I regarded myself as a cellist with occasional forays on the larger instrument provided by orchestras for those defecting from the smaller instrument. I eventually bought my own double bass with the consent of my new wife from money saved for the marital home!

How did you come to join the orchestra?
When the BPO programmed Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz in October 1989, a violinist friend said that some extra double basses would be welcome for the two concerts. I had recently given up singing in the local church choir and could manage the rehearsals. I enjoyed the concerts and stayed on for the rehearsals for the next series.

Most treasured occasion with the BPO?
The BPO remains an important part of my life: I treasure the warm and abundant friendship. With one of the strokes of genius that touch my life, I have managed to lose my double bass, but happily able to use the Orchestra’s instrument provided for the use of defecting cellists (it’s actually a better instrument and we get along get well together).

Any moments you’d rather forget?
None that I can recall.

Favourite composers?
My enthusiastic teacher at school introduced us to Vaughan Williams’ new symphony – No. 6 in E minor – that took the British music scene by storm in the late 1940s with over 100 performances in its first year. When I retired, my generous employers bought me a bike and made a hefty donation to the Orchestra to programme the symphony in the 1994-95 season. Vaughan Williams remains one of my favourite composers as does fellow countryman, Benjamin Britten.

Least favourite composer?
I cannot warm to Delius or his French contemporary, Debussy (both born in 1862).

Work(s) you’d like to play before you die?
On the eve of my 80th year, my greatest fear is that my body will give out before my enthusiasm: not only do double bassists have to haul a bulky instrument (15 kilos in weight), but also have to bring their own furniture! Before that happens, I hope that we will play Brahms’ so-called St Anthony’s Variations.

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