On Sunday 16 November, a large gathering of family and friends came together at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to celebrate the life of Delia Ruhm who died in September at the age of 89. Delia was a much-admired flautist whose early career included playing for the Boyd Neel Orchestra, Chelsea Opera Group (under Colin Davis), the Scottish National and BBC Scottish orchestras and who played Principal Flute for the Orchestra da Camera for thirty years as well as in many other orchestras and ensembles in the Midlands notably the CBSO.There is a fine obituary for Delia written by her daughter Becca in the online Guardian dated 30 September 2014, detailing her early life growing up in a Jewish family in Berlin and the Netherlands and her arrival in Britain in 1939. Delia was an extraordinary person who determinedly worked towards a career as a flute player at a time when this was no easy thing to do. She was championed by her teacher Gareth Morris (Principal Flute of the Philharmonia Orchestra for many years) who, when realising that there was no deterring her from her aim, did everything he could to help her.
Apart from her performing, Delia taught the flute at the Birmingham School of Music, King Edward’s School and privately and using her great understanding of people worked as a volunteer for the Samaritans and the Children’s Hospice, Acorns. With her husband, Harlan Walker, her generous spirit flowed into her successful family and into the legendary hospitality that they offered to countless itinerant musicians as they passed through or stayed in Birmingham. In my own case, yearly visits with the Albion Ensemble for the Cannon Hill Chamber Music Weekends resulted in some stupendous meals at their house in the Hagley Road together with much laughter and joie-de-vivre. In 1993/4, when I was appointed to Birmingham Conservatoire I stayed no fewer than 70 nights in one year at the Walkers, thereby feeling a real part of their family ever since. Birmingham Conservatoire students have also stayed with Harlan and Delia and made use of their piano for practising. One of these, Pei-Chun Liao flew from Taiwan to play the piano at the celebration which also featured an expanded Albion Ensemble. Delia, you will be missed.