Paul Duffy

Paul Duffy has been an RCM Friend since 1992 and has included the College in his will. As a member of Mensa, Paul arranges regular group trips to RCM International Opera School productions for members of the society.

You regularly bring large parties of people from Mensa to the RCM opera productions, don’t you?

Yes, for The Magic Flute, I brought 64. Our party was 38 for La gazzetta, and a similar number for the Ravel double bill. Those events were so successful that I have decided to go on to national advertising within Mensa, which we’re doing for Albert Herring [in July].

I joined Mensa a long time ago and actually allowed my membership to lapse because I couldn’t find enough activities that interested me at the time. And then, 20 years later, they wrote to me and said ‘Mensa’s much better now, why don’t you rejoin’, so I did. What I found was a lack of cultural events and I thought that was a major gap. I thought that members should regularly have opportunities to go to concerts and opera.

Classical music has always been a passion of mine from childhood and it was an experiment to see how successful it would be to organise these events for Mensa members, and I’ve proved that it can be.

Due to a lack of music education in a lot of schools many children grow up without any knowledge or awareness of classical music, which is very sad. So, I just wanted to raise awareness and meet other people in Mensa who shared my interests.

Do you feel that institutions like the RCM are vital for the future of music in Britain?

Yes, very much so. I did do some promotional work years ago for the rock music industry, for a group that my brother started – The Stranglers. We didn’t have musical parents and neither of us had a proper music education which I always regretted. He went that way and I went the other way because my best friends at school were pianists. I did try to play violin and even played second violin in an orchestra in Hong Kong but compared my performance unfavourably with that of fellow members of that orchestra.

I would like music education to be more widely available and so I’m doing my little bit to try and help the RCM. I think it’s very important that institutions like the College exist and thrive.

What has been your favourite production that you’ve attended?

Well, I go back so far it’s hard to say. I still think warmly of The Fair at Sorochintsi conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky and produced by Keith Warner in the mid-1990s. Some of the Mozart productions in recent years have been very well sung and benefited from simple but beautiful stage design and lighting. And this is one of the things that’s so refreshing about student opera productions: generally speaking, they try to stick to the creator’s intentions

You’re also a legacy supporter of the RCM. Why did you decide to do that?

I would like some of the modest amount of wealth that I’ve created to be of real lasting benefit to the world. Proper music education is something that I didn’t have and would have enjoyed enormously if I had. It’s one of the great regrets of my life.

When did you first encounter the Royal College of Music?

I think I discovered the Royal College of Music by accident. I became interested in the London Handel Society which does a Handel opera at the RCM’s Britten Theatre every year. That was the first thing I saw at the College. I wondered what else went on there so I took an interest and joined the Friends. I was really delighted at what I found.

What do you like about being a Friend of the RCM?

The feeling that I’m supporting it and that young people will be enabled to study there who perhaps wouldn’t from their own resources – that we are creating a different stream of income which is helping. And I enjoy very much the performances I go to.

What would you say to anyone else who’s thinking about coming to something at the College or becoming an RCM Friend?

I’d say it was a very good thing to do, and, in fact, of the Mensa group I’ve brought to the College, I think at least 9 or 10 of them have become Friends in the last few months. That’s a very satisfactory result, I think.

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
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