David Mason, 1926-2011

June 2, 2011

Although he is known to many as the performer of the memorable piccolo trumpet solo on the Beatles' Penny Lane, David Mason will be remembered by those who knew him as "a real gentleman" who cared greatly for his students and fellow musicians.

Born in 1926, Professor Mason won a scholarship at 16 to study at the Royal College of Music. He became the youngest member of the National Symphony Orchestra before being called up to the Scots Guards during the Second World War.

After leaving the forces, Professor Mason joined the orchestra of the Royal Opera House and then moved on to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, where he played principal trumpet. Upon leaving the Royal Philharmonic, Professor Mason joined the Philharmonia Orchestra, where he was to remain for the rest of his playing career.

Although Professor Mason was renowned for his orchestral performances, his work was probably most widely heard on Penny Lane, released as a double A-sided single with Strawberry Fields Forever in 1967.

In 1970, Professor Mason was appointed professor of trumpet at the Royal College of Music, and taught there until his retirement in 1998.

His work was recognised by the David Mason Prize for Orchestral Trumpet Playing, awarded on a yearly basis by the college.

In a tribute from the institution, Professor Mason was described as "a major influence on the development of generations of world-class trumpeters".

He also sat on the board of the Royal Society of Musicians, a charity that supports musicians suffering financial hardship.

David Harpham, registry officer (admissions and faculties) at the Royal College of Music and a long-time friend of Professor Mason, paid tribute to "one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet".

"He was generous to a fault and a fantastic player, obviously," he said. "He was so interested in his students and full of care and compassion for other musicians."

Mr Harpham said that he had enlisted Professor Mason's help in auditioning potential students up until last year.

"His judgement was superb," he said. "Even if he had to turn someone down, he was able to do so in a very nice way."

Asked how Professor Mason was likely to be remembered, Mr Harpham said: "A real gentleman, someone who played at the top of his game for many years and who was respected by everybody in the profession."

Professor Mason died on 29 April of leukaemia. He is survived by his wife Rachel and two children.


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