Following the death of our Sub-Principal Oboe Tim Watts, his colleagues in the Orchestra share tributes to the player who dedicated many years of his life to the RPO and was a dear friend to us.

Patrick Flanaghan, Principal Cor Anglais

Tim Watts was an exceptional colleague and friend. He was one of the most diligent, dedicated, and talented musicians I have had the honour of working with. Tim was a role model within the RPO woodwind section - his ability to move from 2nd oboe to Principal (and, on occasion, to cor anglais) was inspiring. He set a standard for what being prepared was, and how to go about it; I do not ever remember him moaning to me about reeds or the amount of work on the schedule. He just got on with it. Nothing ever seemed to faze him. His love of performing across the broad range of RPO concerts was amazing - there was no concert too big or small, they all got equal treatment. I will forever miss him bopping his oboe up and down during our RAH "pops" concerts - the cheeky smile alongside me at these concerts is a memory I will always cherish. 

A lot of my memories of Tim are also off-stage. He and I are big lovers of cricket - Johnny (Principal Oboe) less so…. We managed to convince Johnny that a yearly oboe night out to the T20 cricket at Lords would be brilliant fun - these evenings were always a highlight of my summer when we could all sit down away from work and put our feet up, gossip as only Tim could, and enjoy a lovely picnic and a chilled glass of wine or two. 

Patrick Flanaghan 1
Patrick, Tim and Johnny on a T20 Annual Oboe Night Out

Tim was a proud Evertonian and would suffer most weekends (due to them being useless!). If he was ever off work and Liverpool had just lost, I would often get a text from him saying to wind up Dan Johnson, our Stage Manager, who is a big Liverpool fan. It's funny how Tim would get me to wind up a 6-foot plus Scouser and not do it in person. Very sensible indeed!

On tour, Tim was extremely sociable and moved between different social circles. He loved playing tennis with colleagues, and by evening, you’d often catch him in the book club. He was quite simply the kindest friend and colleague you could ever wish for. 

Tim’s continued dedication to the orchestra was shown by his standing for the Board last November and being elected by his peers. He still felt that after 23 years, he had more to offer. It was a truly selfless act from a most remarkable man and musician. He will be sorely missed by everyone at the RPO.

John Roberts, Principal Oboe

As a second oboist Tim was second to none. He was an exceedingly calm presence in the section, and his tone production so fautlessly secure - I never had to even think about whether we'd play together, or if our sounds would match - he would just be there, right with me. Ours was a truly wonderful musical partnership which I will always treasure.

We also had tremendous fun in the process. We laughed a lot in rehearsals (probably too much), and off the concert platform Tim was a vivacious and youthful character, always up for a gossip in the tea break and a pint in the pub after the show. Orchestra tours were punctuated daily by crammed-in hikes, bike rides and sea swims.

Tim was a great friend to many of us. As a former barkeeper in his father's pub, a former gillie on a Highland estate, and a Cambridge history graduate, Tim was an endlessly engaging conversationalist and raconteur. He was deeply tolerant and easy-going, and understood people remarkably well. Advice would be too strong a word - such was his nature - but I will always be grateful to Tim for the small nuggets of wisdom which have really been to my benefit over the years.

Tim's untimely passing leaves a great hole, not just in the RPO but in the musical scene of the whole country. From Scottish Opera to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, fellow musicians have expressed their shock and sadness - over his lifetime Tim left his impressive mark on practically every ensemble in the UK.

 In my thoughts daily are his wife Adrienne, his son Peter and his daughter Naomi. 

Patrick Flanaghan 2

Andrew Storey, Principal Second Violin and RPO Chair

Tim was a true friend to everyone in the RPO. The Orchestra and staff are deeply shocked by his sudden illness and passing and I know he will be hugely missed by all. He was a member of the RPO for 23 years, occupying the second oboe seat with subtlety and skill. He really understood the unique role of a second player it seemed, always balancing and fitting in with the section perfectly and supporting those in solo seats around him. I would describe him as a rock in the woodwind section. He was always cheery, with an enthusiastic appetite for whatever work we were doing. I think Tim really enjoyed his work, and even more so when his daughter Naomi joined the Orchestra. He was a proud father!

His energy for music-making with his colleagues never diminished in the 22 years that I knew him. He was also the Musicians' Union steward for many years, and just this last year joined the Player Board of the Orchestra, bringing his wisdom and experience to discussions. On tour, he never seemed to tire. Only this past January, in America, he told me how he didn't think in all his years of touring he had ever gone straight to bed after a concert, no matter how early we had been at the airport that morning he had the energy to socialise and explore a new city. He was a keen member of the RPO book club, and in years past, he and I enjoyed partnering in games of Bridge, with a similar lack of understanding of the nuances of bidding! I, along with everyone in the RPO family, will miss Tim, his playing, and his inspirational passion for music and life.

Timothy Watts mountains outside Tokyo credit Richard Ion smaller
Tim exploring the mountains outside Tokyo on tour in Japan in 2023 © Richard Ion

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