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Sidonie Goossens

Annie Sidonie Goossens OBE (19 October 1899 – 15 December 2004) was one of Britain's most enduring harpists. She made her professional debut in 1921, was a founder member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and went on to play for more than half a century until her retirement in 1981.

She was born in Liscard, Wallasey, Cheshire, a member of the famous Goossens family that had emigrated to Britain from Belgium in the 19th century. Her father and grandfather were both conductors, both called Eugène. Her brother Sir Eugene Goossens made an international conducting career in the mid-20th century and was also a composer. He spent many years working in Australia as the director of the NSW Conservatorium of Music and chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony. Her brother Léon was an eminent oboist and her sister Marie was also a distinguished harpist. In 1916, her brother Adolphe, a gifted French horn player was killed in action.

She was honoured with a MBE in 1974, and later an OBE in 1980. She was recommended for a Damehood, but this was allegedly vetoed by Margaret Thatcher, who said: 'We can't give a DBE to an orchestral musician'. She retired officially from the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1980, the year of the orchestra's Golden Jubilee. Her final performance was in 1991 during the Last Night of the Proms when she accompanied Dame Gwyneth Jones in her own arrangement of "The Last Rose of Summer". There were celebratory concerts for her 100th birthday at London's Wigmore and Royal Festival Halls. She died in Reigate, Surrey, on 15 December 2004 aged 105.

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