Richard Norman Nelson, distinguished violinist and conductor, deeply loved and admired by all who knew him, died peacefully on February 23, 2018 at the age of 86. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Norman had a long and full musical career that led him from Assistant Concertmaster of the Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony, and BBC Symphony orchestras and a founding member of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, to Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony, founding member of the Purcell String Quartet, and Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. In his "retirement," Norman founded the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997 and directed its 60-plus devoted members until his true retirement in October 2017. He was a recipient of the Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Barbara Pentland Award of Excellence for his many years of dedicated service to Canadian music. Norman was an extraordinary man with an infectious sense of humour and ready wit. He had a story to tell - often raucously funny - for every situation. Even though his talent and exceptional knowledge of classical music was prodigious, he remained deeply humble. Nor did he take himself too seriously, being equally at home conducting a Beethoven symphony or an "overture" for chain saws at the Sooke Fling. He was passionate about sport, politics, and blistering hot curries. His effect on so many of his students was truly life changing; through shouted encouragement, humour, and wildly enthusiastic gesticulation, Norman taught them to love music and life. He continued to build and nurture vibrant musical communities around him right to the end. His death is a profound loss to everyone whose lives he touched. Norman is survived by his adoring family: his wife Jenny, children Jenny (Glenn), Galt (Shirley) and Cathy (Lyle), step-children Joanna (Chris) and Andrew (Milena), brothers Richard (Luce) and Bill (Norma), and 12 grandchildren: Michael, Kevin, Emily, David, Tim, Katie, Daniel, Sophie, Rowan, Ian, Sophia, and Julia. A celebration of Norman's life will be held in the Sooke Community Hall, 2037 Shields Road, Sooke, Saturday, March 10, 3:30 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Sooke Philharmonic Society or to the Harmony Project, Sooke. "Anyone can play the notes, people. But let's play the music!"
Published in The Times Colonist from Mar. 1 to Mar. 3, 2018.