Eric Wetherell (1945)

Eric Wetherell

It is with great sadness that the Faculty announces the passing of alumnus Eric David Wetherell (1945).

Eric studied at The Queen’s College Oxford, under Bernard Rose and Dr Thomas Armstrong, as well as composition with Egon Wellesz. He went on to train as an organist and pianist at the Royal College of Music, studying orchestration with Gordon Jacob, the organ with Harold Darke and composition with Herbert Howells. In his early career as a French horn player, Eric performed regularly with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, under such conductors as Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Adrian Boult, Serge Koussevitzky, Edouard van Beinum, George Szell and Victor de Sabata. As a conductor, Eric began as a repetiteur at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, working with such artists as Sir George Solti, Rudolf Kempe, Sir William Walton, Carlo Maria Giulini, Antal Dorati, Jascha Horenstein, Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten. He became Assistant Musical Director and Conductor with Welsh National Opera and regularly conducted for the various BBC staff orchestras. After a further six years as Musical Director for HTV, where he wrote incidental music to accompany dramatic works, including The Inheritors, Thick As Thieves and a popular programme that has become a cult drama work, Sky. He went on to become Principal Conductor of the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra, where he worked on many recordings and live broadcasts. His profound enthusiasm for jazz also led to a close involvement with the BBC Big Band, for whom he both arranged and produced. In particular, he was a regular conductor and arranger for the popular ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ on BBC Radio 2 in the early 1970s. Eric Wetherell was also a keen jazz pianist and played regularly with his quartet. His association with the BBC took him from London to Cardiff and Belfast and then to Bristol where he was Senior Music Producer, Radio 3, until his retirement. He continued to work very actively, particularly as a composer and arranger.

His family have commented: ‘He was a remarkable all-round musician, a fine composer, well respected conductor, as well as a dearly loved husband, father and grandfather. He died peacefully with great courage and dignity at Norewood Lodge Nursing Home near his home in Portishead. There will be a small private funeral and later a celebratory concert for him, when it is possible to hold such an event.’