Chris Smith-Gillard

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of former COE Tour Manager Christopher Smith-Gillard who passed away peacefully after a long illness on 3rd February 2024.

Chris was an utter delight – quick-witted, warm-hearted, charming, fun, generous, highly competent, cake-loving & chocolate-addicted, with peals of infectious laughter always near the surface.
He guided us through all the countless problems and incidents that orchestral touring entails with such élan that he made it all seem easy.
We weren’t the only ones who loved him. Many of the conductors and soloists who worked with him during his time with us became his good friends, appreciating the way his humour-laced diplomacy could defuse otherwise stressful situations.
Rest in peace, dear Chris.
Nick Eastop, COE Bass Trombone

Lieber, lieber Chris,

Du warst einer meiner wichtigsten Freunde.
Dein unbeschreiblich treffsicherer Humor hat Dich niemals davon abgehalten, dennoch aus der Tiefe Deines Herzens da zu sein, wenn man Dich wirklich gebraucht hat. Du konntest die unangenehmsten Wahrheiten ganz klar und knapp aussprechen, mit einem liebevollen Scherz garniert, sodass man sofort wieder lächeln musste. Was für eine kostbare Eigenschaft, die von grosser Weisheit zeugt!
Du hast wirklich gewusst, wie man das Leben geniesst und alle Herzen sind Dir zugeflogen.
Die gemeinsamen Abende bei Dir sind jedem unvergesslich, der sie erleben durfte.
Ebenso Deine Erzählungen von La Marchesa und Deinen Reisen zu ihr und ganz besonders auch Deine sensationellen Pantomimes, die mich sehr beeindruckt und begeistert haben, obwohl ich als Nicht-Muttersprachlerin sicher nur einen Bruchteil der doppelbödigen Komik verstanden habe.
Auch Dein Sinn für Ästhetik und Schönheit hat mich sehr berührt und ich habe es so geliebt, wenn Du Deine Lieblingssongs am Klavier gespielt hast
In meinem Herz wirst Du definitiv immer einen ganz wichtigen Platz behalten und Deine bezaubernde Lebensfreude wird mir stets ein Vorbild bleiben.

Deine Maria

Maria Kubizek, COE Violin

I have lots of nice memories of him and completely agree that his optimism and charm were such an asset to the orchestra.

I remember being in Venice for a long stretch in September 1984 doing a Luigi Nono opera. I was sad that Will and I were apart on our first wedding anniversary and as it was a free day Chris insisted on taking me out for the day. We went to Torcello and Murano and he bought me a lovely lunch. It was so thoughtful and generous and I’ve never forgotten it.

My other favourite memory involves Sir George Solti. Solti could be a tyrant and everyone was very careful and deferential around him- except Chris! At one rehearsal Solti was furious because he couldn’t find his baton. Chris went off to Solti’s dressing room and came back with the baton. He went up to the podium, waved the baton in front of the still angry Solti and said, as if to a small child, “didn’t look very hard did we Sir George?!” The orchestra waited in shocked silence but Solti didn’t have a reply. Chris had defused the situation with humour and a light touch that only he could have got away with!

Sarah Bevan-Baker, COE Violin

Bruce Knockles, COE Trumpet
Peter Richards, COE Horn
Marieke Blankestijn, COE Associate Leader
Clara Andrada de la Calle, COE Principal Flute
Florian Geldsetzer, Former COE Violin
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