Justin Jones (1952-2012)
Adapted from a eulogy by Martyn Jones, former Philharmonia violinist and Chairman, and Justin’s predecessor as Archivist
Justin Jones was born in Watlington on 24 December 1952 and moved to the Isle of Wight at the age of seven. His father, Charles, was an Agricultural Lecturer and his mother Mignon – in later life known affectionately as “The Old Buzzard” – was a respected and well known artist and sculptress. From his father he inherited a love of the sea, and of sailing. His father renovated an old sailing boat, a Pilot Cutter called “Foam” and he and Justin spent many happy times sailing in her.
Justin started learning the violin with a local teacher, and at the age of 15 started lessons with Peter Thomas. He went to the Royal Academy of Music at the age of 17, where he studied with Frederick Grinke. After starting his professional career with the London Mozart Players, he took up a position in the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1975, moving to the Philharmonia in 1979.
I spent more than 20 years in the first violin section with Justin, enduring the Philharmonia’s punishing schedule, but at the same time enjoying ourselves immensely. He was an excellent violinist and a totally professional colleague, serious and conscientious to a fault; he had an almost forensic approach to violin technique, and I always felt that he would have been a fine teacher. I particularly looked forward to sitting with Justin in rehearsals; in between passages our heads would go down and an always-fascinating conversation would begin about sailing or books or films. He was also very good at impromptu sketches and Philharmonia first violin parts are littered with pictures of conductors; on occasion you’d see the audience close by craning their necks to try and see what was on the page. I also particularly remember one time when I was attempting to learn some French and realised – to my delight – that Justin’s French was rather good. We decided one day to speak only in French, which worked very well and we happily passed messages around in crude and broken French to other members of the section, not realising that Bogdan Ofenberg and John Gralak, sitting immediately behind us, were passing the same message back but in Polish. By the time this complex game of Chinese whispers had reached the whole section the original message was completely unintelligible.
We were on one of the many Philharmonia tour of Japan when Justin quietly asked me if I knew the identity of “that young lady at the back of the violas”. I said I would find out and duly reported that her name was Mary Whittle. True to form, he didn’t mention her again for some weeks, at which point it became obvious that they had become an item. Equally true to form, without mentioning to anyone (even Mary), he quietly started taking instruction in the Catholic faith as proof of his love for her. They were married on 17 April 1993 and were quickly blessed with two children, Elizabeth and Anthony. From the beginning they were a devoted and happy family, the children growing up in a household full of fun and laughter to be bright, clever and utterly charming young people.
Justin’s first brush with cancer was in November 2000, and to the relief of everyone, he successfully recovered, both returning to playing and serving for 11 years on the Philharmonia’s Council of Management, where his thoughtful and carefully considered contributions to the smooth running of the Orchestra were, and still are, admired by all. When he sadly became ill again in April 2011 both Justin and Mary remained upbeat and positive; Justin took on the position of Philharmonia Archivist to allow him to reduce the demands of his playing schedule, a role he performed with his usual care for detail and devotion to the task. Until only a few weeks ago, they remained positive and full of praise for his new chemotherapy treatment: such was his will-power that he continued to give short recitals until just a few weeks before his death. His sudden decline and departure was deeply shocking. Mary was with him day and night for the last weeks of his illness, sleeping in his hospital room and later in his room at St Luke’s Hospice. He died in her arms on 21 November 2012, a month before his 60th birthday.
Justin was a gentle man. I never heard him say a cross word or lose his temper. He was a worker, a doer, a thinker: a man who thought before he spoke, a quality that too few of us are blessed with. He will be remembered with love and affection by his many friends and colleagues, who are joined by everyone in the Philharmonia Orchestra in offering deepest sympathy to Mary, Elizabeth and Anthony.