24th January 1925 - 22nd August 2009
John Honeyman was, for over 40 years, a professional double-bass player, playing with many of the great orchestras and conductors, and closely involved with the formation and running of the London Chamber Orchestra.
Sadly he died recently following a stroke.
A copy of his memoirs is available by clicking here - NOTE that this file is in PDF format, and intended for printing double-sided on A4 paper: not all printers will be capable of this. A revised edition with an index is in preparation and will be available here in due course.
Funeral Service - 2nd September 2009. Order of Service
Music to come in - Frank Sinatra I've got you under my skin
Introduction - we meet to remember John - and within this time we will reflect on his life - remember what he has done and reflect on his journey, as a man and through his music. We meet within this sadness of parting but we will recall times of meeting with John and think of the way that his life has touched the lives of others. We are the people that we are because of all those people that we have met through our lives and through the sharing that has been made. In musical terms John shared performance with many people, some famous and in the story of music, others ordinary people like us, who came to listen to his music and who were inspired by it. John shared a real life - a life that showed his character - which was real, determined and unique. We will share this time today representing the many people who heard him play and who were part of his life. He brought a deeper dimension through his music, and I would like to think that he shared an understanding beyond himself and beyond us - which is our journey of life and faith.
We won't sing hymns today but will use words and music - reflection or prayer as we meet today to remember John and to give thanks for his life.
Time for quiet reflection
The sense of place - a reading
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may
God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Traditional gaelic blessing
A reflection of John's life
John was born into poor circumstances in Cowdenbeath. His Scottish roots were always apparent. His father was a 'fiddler', playing in a 'baund' at weddings and dances.
Interestingly, David McCallum (father of 'the man from Uncle' and 'Dr Mallard' in NCIS) was, in his teens, leader of the cinema band in Cowdenbeath a link that was to become more apparent as John's life unfolded
John's father did not approve of his becoming a musician, but at the age of 11 or 12, John joined the local brass band, playing baritone horn, an instrument too large to hide, and reluctantly his father accepted his musical activities setting John on a course of events that was to be seen throughout his life.
John subsequently studied music at the Carnegie Institute in Dunfermline, and as a result of his talent, and by dint of hard work, a trait that was part of the whole of his life he eventually became a professional double-bass player.
From the 1940s onwards, he played with all the well-known orchestras and under many famous conductors, travelling the world. He met Schostakovich, and was invited to his 50th birthday party in Moscow in 1956. His friends were the great musicians of the day, and he could recount many anecdotes and scrapes with his 'chums' as musicians do.
He did much film music as well including music for the carry on films and music for the Avengers - he also worked with latter day greats such as Frank Sinatra and Pavorotti
John became involved with the London Chamber Orchestra and subsequently managed it for some years - the orchestra was always important to him - the LCO still exists, though with different players, and John still receives small payments whenever they perform. As an economical Scotsman, he will be very peeved if he cannot continue to receive them where he is now!
In his personal life, John was a challenging character, to which no less than three wives can attest. Whilst he could be great fun in company, and in some circumstances, life with him was often challenging. His last marriage to Anita lasted nearly 30 years, and was often tumultuous and challenging to them both. Though nearly 20 years his junior, she sadly died from cancer nearly two years ago. It was through Anita and the Festival that I got to know John and respected his views although they were sometimes contrary to the rest of any others in the meeting!
John's musicianship was of such a high standard and due to the nature of his work he was never allowed to do much manual labour. This changed on his retirement though as he built ponds at the houses which he made home and these projects became part of his life, as did his taking on fly fishing but as this was when everything else was done and often in the wind and the rain.
Following the loss of Anita, John was devastated, and found life alone extremely difficult. His drinking made matters worse and he suffered various health problems, including a severe internal haemorrhage which should have killed him, but didn't succeed with this tough Scotsman!
John's relationship with his only child, Iain, was often strained, John seemingly being unable to exercise the patience and tolerance that children (of all ages, even when adult!) need from their parents although he was there as part of the family which was worked out in the unique way that all families are.
Iain was a tower of strength to his father following the loss of Anita, helping and supporting him despite John's reluctance to accept this at times. If it had not been for Iain, John might well have foundered, but instead he gradually sorted out his affairs, reduced his drinking, and made some adjustment to his life without Anita.
It has only been in this last 18 months or so that the relationship between father and son has achieved some warmth and mutual appreciation. There were disagreements, but now they were resolved, sometimes with John indicating that he was in the wrong.
In his last days before illness overtook him, John was in good spirits, pleased that two copies of his memoirs had been sold, and that he was to be used as an example to medical students as a result of the success of his heart valves, fitted several years ago.
Due to illness, during his last days in hospital he was an extremely frustrated patient, but it cannot go without note that he ended his life with the strong will and the belief that he was right, which had enabled him to establish and maintain his long and successful musical career.
There can never again be another John Honeyman.
Quiet time for everyone to remember John
Words of commendation as we remember John and his journey
A Scottish blessing
May the blessing of light be on you
Light without and light within.
May the light shine on you like a great peat fire,
So that stranger and friend may come and warm themselves at it.
And may light shine out,
Like a candle set in the window of a house,
Bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
May the blessing of the rain be on you,
May it beat upon your Spirit
And wash it fair and clean,
And leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, And
sometimes a star.
May the blessing of the earth be on you,
Soft under your feet as you passed along the roads,
Soft under you, tired at the end of day;
And may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you
That your soul may be out from under it quickly;
And your place be remembered
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.
Curtains close - Music - Let there be love
A Celtic Blessing -
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.