On Saturday, July 3rd, The Boston Pops organization paid tribute to Nona Gainsforth, The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra’s 30-year veteran French Horn player. Diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2005, Nona passed away on June 11th.
In her three decades with the Boston Pops, Nona’s extended family reached far and wide, having worked with musicians from across the globe.
Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart said that he has been working with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra since he came to Boston in 1995. In these 16 years of tours together, which included Japan, Korea and 33-34 states, he said that after doing the math, it amounts to spending a total of about a year of time together on the road. He said that with that much time together, it becomes a family and that Nona has been a part of that family longer than he has.
Maestro Lockhart said, “As a member of the orchestra, this would have been Nona’s 29th 4th of July. She was a great player and more importantly a great colleague. As I said at her formal memorial service a few weeks ago, Nona was the one person in the family who everyone looked up to and nobody disliked. It’s an amazing position to be in.”
Lockhart continued, “She battled cancer for many years, and has a profoundly disabled child that she took care of pretty much totally by herself. But you never heard it from her; she was never self-pitying. She was always positive, always ready to go and always where she needed to be. And we miss people like that. But it’s also very heartening to see an orchestra that cares so much about its own and that they’re deeply involved in honoring her passing.”
Pops Esplanade and Utah Symphony Tuba player Gary Ofenloch worked with Nona for 30 years. He said that her passing is “difficult for everyone” and that at just 59 years old, she left us far too early. “Nona was loved by everyone. She was a great player, and a great mother, and she is deeply missed by all.” He said, “Everyone is really very sad. She fought breast cancer for years and thought she had licked it. This is particularly tough and she had a lot of very close friends.”
On Saturday afternoon after the Boston Pops finished its 4th of July rehearsal at the Hatch Shell, the Pops and Nona’s friends and family paid tribute to her as they gathered around the Arthur Fiedler statue on the Esplanade. Friends and family each held a balloon as members from the Pops Esplanade Orchestra brass section, including Ofenloch (Tuba), Kevin Owen (horn), Bruce Hall and Rich Kelly (trumpet), Jim Nova and Hans Bohn (trombone) and Gabe Langfur (bass trombone), played the Largo (2nd Mvmt.) from Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony No. 9, arranged by the Pops’ own Pat Hollenbeck.
As the players withheld a final note, each of Nona’s friends and family quietly released their balloon. Everyone watched in silence as balloons of every color floated and climbed higher and higher. And when the balloons were no longer visible, people continued to stare upwards to the sky in remembrance. There were tears and hugs, but mostly there was silence. It was a beautiful and personal tribute to a woman who clearly meant so much to so many.
In Memoriam – Nona Gainsforth, June 11, 2010.
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