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The Goossens Family: An English Musical Dynasty
Author: James Gorton
Date: Summer 2013
From: American Harp Journal
Publisher: American Harp Society
Violinist/conductor Eugene Goossens II and his wife, singer Annie Cook, had five children. One son, Adolphe, was a gifted French horn player who was killed in action during World War I. Eugene Goossens III and his other siblings had long, illustrious musical careers. Along with his father and grandfather, Eugene III was connected at various times with the Carl Rosa Opera Company of London as a violinist or conductor.
Brother Leon Goossens (1897-1988) became an eminent English oboist and was well known as a world famous concerto soloist, chamber player, recording artist, and orchestral musician. Sisters Marie (1894-1991) and Sidonie (1899-2004) were both highly regarded professional harpists in London. Sidonie joined the London Symphony Orchestra in 1921, was a founding member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1930, and played with that orchestra for more than fifty years until her retirement in 1981.
Marie was with the London Philharmonic under Sir Thomas Beecham and with the London Symphony Orchestra. She also taught at the Royal College of Music. Both Marie and Sidonie were for many years the only females in their respective orchestras.
Marie Goossens and Sidonie Goossens: England’s Queens of the Harp
Marie and Sidonie Goossens were brought up Catholic and planned to find Catholic husbands. Marie, the last to leave the family nest, married Frederick Laurence, a steady and unpretentious man ten years older than she. Frederick started his career as a composer and musical advisor to EMI, but his primary employment was as librarian of the Proms and personnel manager for the Royal Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic.
Sidonie chose a partner with a totally different personality. Hyam Greenbaum, known as ‘Bumps,’ met Sidonie through her brother Leon. Bumps was vivacious, full of energy and enthusiasm, and known as a brilliant string player and composer with aspirations to be a conductor. At first the Goossens family had reservations about Bumps’ Jewish background, but he was soon accepted as family. Sidonie and Bumps led a life of society and entertaining, including events honoring Sibelius and Gershwin.
Quite ahead of her time, Marie was a true Renaissance woman, juggling the demands of being a wife, mother, and professional musician. She employed a nanny to help. In addition to her London Philharmonic job, Marie played for recordings and films to supplement her income. Between 1950 and 1980, Marie played for all of the big names in popular music, including Tony Bennett, Count Basie, and Hammersmith. Marie wrote,
I used to go to Twickenham to record music for films; this had to be done at night as the studio was near the railway and the sound of the trains held up work. As soon as the last train left we started. We recorded through the night until a break for refreshment at 4 AM. We were given bacon and eggs and saute potatoes–did ever anything taste better! After this we were quite fresh and we carried on till the first train…