The Royal Northern College of Music’s (RNCM) forthcoming commemoration of its Founding Principal will honour two outstanding figures, both with strong Manchester connections: composer Sir John Manduell CBE and sculptor Hazel Reeves.

A bust of Sir John will be unveiled in the main reception of the College on Friday 21 June followed by an evening concert given by the RNCM Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir, conducted by David Hill MBE.

For nearly 60 years Sir John Manduell CBE played an increasingly important role in the cultural and musical life of this nation, as well as making much valued contributions to music and education in countries further afield who all benefited from the remarkable vision, understanding, and energy he brought to the many organisations and institutions he served.

His career from PRS Scholar studying composition with Lennox Berkeley, to his important roles at the BBC and membership of key advisory and governing bodies is well-recorded elsewhere. In 1969, he was appointed Head of Lancaster University’s new Music Department, where I first met him. His engagement with the students, the opportunities he created, his support and encouragement were all part of who he was. I could scarce believe my good fortune when he invited me to be his PA while he ‘set up a new conservatoire in Manchester.’ For the next 15 months, my ‘office’ was the dining room of his Yorkshire home where I soon felt I really belonged, as follower, member of the family and friend. 

For Mancunians, his crowning achievement and enduring legacy resides in his amalgamation of the Royal Manchester College of Music and Northern School of Music, transforming them into what has become one of the world’s leading conservatoires. Between his appointment as Principal in 1971 and his retirement 25 years later, he changed the face of musicians’ training in the UK and took full advantage of the purpose-built premises to provide a world-class environment for students and an outstanding performance venue in the heart of Manchester.

The list of distinguished RNCM alumni during the 50 years now being celebrated would grace the pages of any Musical Who’s Who and bare ample testimony to the incredible achievement of Sir John Manduell, the team of distinguished musicians and professional staff he assembled about him, and his successors who continue to develop the formulae and dedication he established from the beginning.

It has been our greatest good fortune that Hazel Reeves MRSS SWA accepted the commission to create a bust of Sir John Manduell, which has been made possible through funds generously provided by the Ida Carroll Trust set up in memory of another great Mancunian. Hazel’s Manchester connection was firmly established with the 2018 unveiling of Rise Up Women in St Peter’s Square, her celebrated statue of Emmeline Pankhurst. Hazel has shown extraordinary care, dedication and understanding in creating the bust which reflects so many of the qualities as well as the true likeness of the man who is being honoured.

For more details see the RNCM website.

Written by Bryan Fox, a member of Sir John Manduell’s original team