Remembering and celebrating the lives of former students, staff and others associated with the Royal College of Music.
Dame Fanny Waterman FRCM
The founder of ‘the Leeds’ International Piano Competition, regarded as one of the greatest of its kind in classical music, Dame Fanny Waterman studied with Cyril Smith at the Royal College of Music before becoming a much-loved piano teacher herself.
Dame Fanny’s long career championing young musical talent began in the Second World War, when she moved from a nascent performance career into teaching. Born in Leeds, her connection with the city would come to bear in her passionate pursuit of establishing a piano competition, which she did with the support of her husband 'Geoffrey de Keyser' and her friend and co-founder, the pianist Marion Thorpe, in 1961.
The idea for the Leeds International Piano Competition, known as ‘the Leeds’, came to her in a dream, according to Dame Fanny. She was determined to keep the competition in her hometown and realised her ambition by raising funds from local businesses and the Leeds Corporation. The triennial event grew and grew under her leadership, becoming a significant part of the awards landscape for pianists and now offers five main prizes, with the top honour coming with a £25,000 award and performance engagements around the UK, including concerts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hallé, as well as a date with the Chipping Campden Music Festival.
Dame Fanny was known for an indefatigable judging style, which extended to how she ran the competition. When Radu Lupu, a much-admired Romanian pianist, was placed fourth by the Leeds jury after the second round in 1969, ruling him out from the final, Dame Fanny vocally contested the decision and then changed the competition to allow five finalists to avoid such an outcome in the future. She called herself the ‘field marshal’ keeping the competition running. There was a strict judging procedure in place, with no discussion between judges and a firm sense of the seriousness of the competition. Dame Fanny’s experience as a teacher informed some very clear opinions about modern piano instruction: she was not a fan of electric keyboards or mobile phones, and she felt that young pianists were too often familiar with restricted repertoire.
Her vast knowledge of piano instruction resulted in a hugely popular series of manuals, Me and My Piano, which were produced with support again from Thorpe. The manuals ran to 30 volumes, and were highly used in piano teaching in China. Piano Competition: The Story of Leeds, was produced in 1990, and her autobiography, My Life in Music, was published following her retirement as Chair and Artistic Director of the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2015.
Her work outside of the Leeds saw her take on the presidency of the Harrogate International Festival when she was 89, and she sat on juries for other competitions including the Beethoven, Chopin and Tchaikovsky events. She was appointed OBE in 1971, made CBE in 1999 and received her damehood in 2005. As well as a Fellow of the RCM, Dame Fanny held honorary doctorates from Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan and York Universities.
However, the Leeds International Piano Competition was the seminal contribution to the musical world for which Dame Fanny will always be so fondly remembered. Dame Fanny passed away on 20 December 2020, aged 100. She is survived by her two sons from her marriage to De Keyser, as well as six granddaughters.
You can read an obituary of Dame Fanny Waterman on the Classic FM website.
From 1961–1965, Michael Eardley was a student in the Strings Faculty at the RCM, where he met his wife Anne. He passed away on 28 October 2020.
Michael studied violin with Jack Steadman and conducting with Harvey Philips. After some years teaching for Buckinghamshire, Michael moved into music publishing with Chester Music, becoming Associate Director and liaising with artists such as Sir John Tavener, Witold Lutosławski, Paul Tortelier and Sir Lennox Berkeley.
Following the takeover of Chester Music, a move to Trinity College London as Director of Music and Speech Exams meant planning and organising exams in the UK and 30 other countries, many of which he visited, interviewing local representatives and attending prizegiving events.
Locally he conducted the Aylesbury Orchestra for 13 years and conducted and played for many other societies in the area, and enjoyed regular pleasurable evenings playing quartets with Anne and friends.
Michael was generous with his time and knowledge with young musicians and adult amateurs alike. His wide understanding of all genres of music led to a nail-biting tie-break finale in the BBC quiz Counterpoint in 1999.
Michael and Anne were married for 54 years and have two sons, Aidan, formerly cellist in the National Orchestra of Wales and Alexander, a computer engineer.
Described as an ‘all-round musician’, Eric Wetherell was a composer, instrumentalist and conductor as well as a husband, father and grandfather.
Eric arrived at the RCM after completing his undergraduate degree in music at The Queen's College Oxford and always spoke about his time at RCM with affection. He had spent his late teens working as Assistant Director of Music at Carlisle Cathedral (in the early 1940s) and he was thrilled by the opportunity to learn composition with such luminaries as Herbert Howells, Harold Darke and Gordon Jacob.
Eric passed away on 31 January 2021.
Promising young composer Lucy Hale has passed away aged only 26. Lucy, who attended the RCM Junior Department, was Young Composer-in-Residence with National Orchestras for All, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Composer 2020 and Wigmore Hall Apprentice Composer 2020–21.
After studying composition with David Sutton-Anderson at RCMJD, Lucy went on to the Royal Northern College of Music as an undergraduate and then progressed to her Masters, from which she graduated with distinction in 2019. The Principal of RNCM, Professor Linda Merrick, calls Lucy a ‘remarkable and extraordinary young woman’ and a ‘powerful role model’.
Lucy had her work performed at esteemed venues including the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, the Barbican Centre, the Institute for Contemporary Arts and Manchester Cathedral. She received commissions from Drake Music in partnership with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestras for All, the National Open Youth Orchestra, Lasham Music Festival, Feelgood Theatre Productions and the Royal Northern College of Music.
A passionate advocate for opportunities for disabled musicians and inclusion for all, in 2017 Lucy was appointed as inaugural Young Composer-in-Association with BSO Resound, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s disabled-led ensemble. On Twitter in July 2020, Lucy said ‘If we don’t want to lose out on fantastic art, we need to ensure disabled artists aren’t forgotten.’
Ken Goodwin HonRCM
We were very sorry to hear of the death of Ken Goodwin HonRCM, who died just after Christmas. Ken was a much-loved member of the RCM community and a treasured RCM Friend.
Ken attended hundreds of concerts and masterclasses since discovering the College in his retirement. A great favourite among the students, he would always chat to them after their performances and while eating his regular fish and chips in the canteen.
Ken was a cattle-herder as a young man before a motorcycle accident left him with one leg (which didn't stop him from taking part in dance competitions!). He then moved into factory work before working for British Aerospace at the end of his career.
The RCM gave Ken a great deal of joy and pride. He would often make donations to the Hardship Fund, as he wanted students to enjoy the opportunities he hadn’t had when he was young. He hated to think of a talented musician being unable to continue their studies because they couldn’t afford to live in London. In addition to this, he generously included a gift of £1000 to the RCM in his Will so that he could continue to help our students in the future. In recognition of his support and friendship, Ken was awarded Honorary Membership of the RCM in 2020.
A collection for the RCM in Ken’s memory is available here.
Opera singer Hugh Beresford won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music shortly after the Second World War, with no previous formal music training. He went on to enjoy an illustrious career in opera.
Known as Jimmie to his family and friends, Hugh began singing in his local church choir, and was conscripted to work on the coal mines in Country Durham during the war – a perforated ear drum meant he couldn’t join the armed forces. His life took a different turn when he won his scholarship to the RCM, which led to him winning First Place as a baritone in the Richard Tauber Singing Competition of the Anglo-Austria Music Society. His win led him to the Vienna Conservatoire, and Vienna would remain a beloved place throughout his life.
In the early 1970s he retrained his high baritone voice and moved to roles as a tenor. Under his stage name of Hugh Beresford, he embarked on a successful stage career across Europe and beyond, appearing at Covent Garden, the Met in New York and the Berlin Opera. He retired to Vienna with his wife in 1985 but continued to give concerts and teach.
Hugh passed away in January 2021. His wife Hilde died in 2004, and he is survived by five nephews and nieces.
You can read more about Hugh’s life and career on the Slipped Disc website.
Una Winifred Salmon was born in London on 29 March 1929. She studied at the Royal College of Music between 1942 and 1950, with piano as her main instrument.
She had met Raymond Warnes, her late husband, whilst a student, and they married in 1950, almost immediately moving to the Dartford area, where Ray was working. In the early 60s the couple moved to the village of Hawley, where Una remained for the rest of her life.
Una taught piano, musicianship, music theory, speech and elocution at her home for many years, inspiring numerous pupils.
She entered pupils for exams in all these disciplines, often hosting the exams in her own home (to the delight of examiners, who were extremely well looked after during their visits) and was a great supporter of many local music and speech festivals. Her poems for young children are still published and remain on the syllabus for speech exams.
She loved attending concerts and following Ray’s death would take some of her more mature students and local friends with her to these performances. News from the Royal College of Music and the Royal Society of Musicians always interested her, and she was always most supportive of their activities. She generously left a legacy to the RCM, reflecting her love of music and the College, which will have a transformational impact on future generations of young musicians.
Una passed away peacefully following a stay in a residential home, and her family would like to thank the staff there for their dedicated care in her latter years.
Organist and conductor Michael Hedley, who passed away in December, was Music Director and Titular Organist of the Basilica of St Nicholas in Amsterdam.
Born in 1951, Michael studied at Guildhall and later at the Royal College of Music, where he gained a Concert Diploma. After years of teaching and church music in London he moved to Amsterdam, joining St Nicholas in 2000. He was also Chairman and Artistic Director of the Muziek in de Nicolaas Foundation.
A full obituary can be read on the Church Times website.
Dr Michael West
After a serious illness Dr Michael West, a long-standing supporter of the Royal College of Music, passed away on 25 November 2020. Michael had a very successful business career and was instrumental in creating Keller Group plc, which today is the largest ground engineering company in the world.
Michael was born on 27 August 1937 in Ballycassidy, Northern Ireland and after attending Portora Royal School he studied at Queen's University, Belfast. He moved to England in 1964 and joined the specialist ground engineering division of GKN as a Soils Engineer. In 1974 he was responsible for the expansion of the division into Germany and in 1978 Michael and his wife Ruth moved to Frankfurt, where he lived until 1981, learning to speak German. Michael then started to travel extensively particularly to the Middle East, where Keller was performing specialist works on two of the largest dams in the world at that time in Pakistan and Iraq.
Michael successfully led a management buy-out of the division from GKN in 1990 and in 1994 he led Keller’s IPO on the London Stock Exchange, which set the stage for a period of further growth. Michael stepped down as CEO in 1998, becoming Chairman for the next ten years before he finally retired in 2009 when he was able to look back on his exceptional and colourful business career during which he made many friends.
Mike had two great qualities that supported this illustrious career – being very astute with numbers and being able to spot, nurture and promote good talent, which meant he built up good teams of people. These qualities led to an exceptionally strong loyalty to Michael and he left his mark on many people.
He was an intelligent, kind, yet very modest man and always found time to speak to people from all walks of life. He never stood on ceremony, always questioned authority, had no time for pomposity. Michael was a supporter of many charities including for the homeless. He was a car enthusiast and at one time had a collection of old motorbikes, and he would participate in motorbike rallies (mainly to Ireland) with like-minded people from around the world. Like many an Irishman, Michael was a great raconteur and storyteller and could regale an audience for hours in his lovely, rich accent.
A supporter of RCM scholarships since 2008, Michael and his wife Ruth have helped students including singers, pianists, harpists and saxophonists, reflecting their eclectic and varied musical tastes. Michael was a big fan of jazz – in particular, jazz saxophone and clarinet. Michael wanted to encourage saxophone playing and big bands at the RCM, so the couple has also supported the playing and training undertaken by RCM ensembles, as well as jazz and big band concerts.
As well as supporting several musicians over the years, Ruth and Michael have been devoted supporters of the More Music: Reimagining the Royal College of Music Campaign. In recognition of their generous support, the Britten Theatre Foyer has been renamed the Ruth West Foyer in honour of the couple’s significant contribution to the College.
Ruth and Michael have remained in touch with many of their scholars throughout the years. ‘We call them sort of our children’, Ruth has said. ‘They’re a lovely family and we’re very proud of them all.’
Michael will be sorely missed, not least by his devoted wife Ruth.
Sheila was a violinist and string teacher who developed ground-breaking methods for teaching children music, which have had a broad-ranging influence on musical education since the 1970s. She studied violin at the Royal College of Music in the 1950s.
Through her teaching in north and east London, her popular books and her appearances on television, Sheila spread an understanding of how to make children interested in and comfortable with new music and instruments, encouraging group lessons and peer collaboration. Sheila revolutionised the experience of being a beginner in music, having a profound effect both on children she taught directly and those whose lessons were inspired by her work. She was an impassioned teacher and advocated for warm, qualified instruction, and was always sure in her conviction that any child could succeed in learning an instrument. Sir Simon Rattle called her ‘a true groundbreaker – and the results of her inspiring work are clear to see in the dizzying number of performing musicians and teachers who count as her progeny.’
You can read a full obituary of Sheila Nelson on The Guardian website.
Kenneth Barker CBE
Professor Kenneth Barker CBE, Vice Chancellor of De Montfort University, was responsible for overseeing the transition of Leicester Polytechnic to De Montfort University in 1992. An ardent supporter of the arts, he studied at the RCM in the 1950s.
Kenneth went on to teach as a school master at several comprehensive schools in the south of England before becoming Vice Principal at Gipsy Hill College, London. He later took up the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Kingston Polytechnic, where he advocated for a prominent role for music education.
He was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Leicester Polytechnic in 1987. He worked with consistent dedication to bring about the changes that saw Leicester Polytechnic transition to DMU. He received a CBE in 1994 and retired in 1999.
He passed away in January 2021, and is survived by his wife Jean, whom he was married to for 62 years, his children Adam and Corinne and his five grandchildren Rosie, Isabelle, Lily, Poppy and Charlie.
You can read a full obituary of Kenneth on the De Montfort University website.
An innovative composer of modern music, Justin Connolly received commissions from the BBC Proms and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and held teaching positions at revered institutions including the RCM.
As well as prolific periods composing, Justin was a popular teacher who was held in high esteem by his colleagues. He studied at the RCM in his youth, and later held a position as a composition instructor at the College. A retrospective CD of his music, Night Thoughts, was issued in 2001, and in 2003 his Piano Concerto was premiered by renowned pianist Nicolas Hodges.
Justin died age 87. He is survived by his sister, Pat.
You can read a full obituary of Justin on The Guardian website.
Alan, former Professor of Sackbut at the Royal College of Music, has passed away.
Alan Lumsden, an engaging character, played trombone in the London orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s while also working in a specialist record store. His trips to Russia in search of musical rarities landed him in need of a quick getaway from the KGB.
After a spell playing with David Munrow’s Early Music Consort, he was appointed Professor of Sackbut at the Royal College of Music and Professor of Recorder and Early Music at Birmingham Conservatoire.
You can read more about Alan’s life in an article written by his daughter, Emma, on the Slipped Disc website.
An ardent supporter of the RCM and much-loved member of the RCM Friends since 2001, John Ward sadly passed away in 2020.
John worked for British Airways until his retirement and was also the National Vice President of the UK Salesian Past Pupils Federation.
He was a passionate supporter of the RCM, in particular trying to help young musicians become the very best they could be. He was immensely proud of his involvement with the RCM family and made many friends at the various social events and concerts. When he visited the College, he would come alive with joy and pride, especially keen to show his family his name on the plaque in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall.
John kindly left the RCM a generous legacy gift in his Will, so that he could continue to help even when he was gone. He is greatly missed by all his family and friends but all you can do is smile when you think about him: joyous, funny, friendly and generous, a truly remarkable man.
We would also like to remember:
John Loftus Benjamin
Kenneth Jones, RCM composition professor