Kenneth Essex’s 101st Birthday Challenge

My name is Kenneth Essex and I will be 101 on 20th July 2021. I intend, starting on 11th July, to do a sponsored walk of two 500m circuits from my house, each day for ten days, a total of 10km, finishing on my 101st birthday in support of Hospice Aid UK. It is a unique UK based charity delivering grants and Emergency Funding to UK Hospices. They give support where it is needed, when it is needed. I do hope that people will sponsor me to raise funds for Hospice Aid UK.

Having previously studied at the Royal Academy of Music, on being demobbed from the Royal Marines after the Second World War, I joined the musical profession, and had an amazing career as a viola player for almost 60 years.

I was accepted by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, played at Glyndebourne with the Hurwitz Quartet, then played with the newly formed Amadeus String Quartet in their quintet dates, until work clashes led me to give up playing with them. I was then invited to join the Boyd Neel Orchestra, the front desk of violas for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, before joining the London Symphony Orchestra as principal viola.

I left the LSO to go freelance, but I continued to play quintets and sextets with the Aeolian, Delme and Gabrieli Quartets and played with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, while pursuing my career in the commercial world as a session musician. I did TV, film and popular music recordings including playing in the string quartet backing The Beatles on Yesterday. I frequently played at Abbey Road Studios under the direction of George Martin. and composer Carl Davis, featured my viola playing in the background music for the TV serial, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman where the title music begins with a viola solo. I played in the incidental music for Last of The Summer Wine for over 30 years, and am the only living member of the string quartet which played the Fawlty Towers theme music.

I played in Royal Variety Performances, Royal Command Performances, the Eurovision song contest in Brighton when Abba won with Waterloo, numerous films, and TV series. My viola playing contributes to the backing tracks of countless popular music legends including Barbra Streisand, the Bee Gees, Burt Bacharach, Kate Bush, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, David Essex (no relation) Dusty Springfield, Elkie Brooks, Gloria Gaynor, Michael Jackson, the Moody Blues, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, The Walker Brothers and of course The Beatles, to name but a few.

I am well known in the musical profession, but many people will not know me, but they have certainly heard my playing!

I have been blessed with a musical talent, and have been very lucky to have had such an interesting musical career. I would like to give something back, and to help other people. I have chosen to support Hospice Aid UK, as several friends and fellow musicians, have benefited from the care of a hospice at the end of their lives.


Donate here: Kenneth Essex – Walk 10km in 10 days before my 101st birthday.

Upset 2021

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file