Founding Principal honoured with new sculpture by Hazel Reeves

Sir John Manduell CBE, the Founding Principal who brought together two eminent Manchester music schools to establish the Royal Northern College of Music, will be honoured this summer with a new bust created by ‘Our Emmeline’ sculptor Hazel Reeves.

The bronze head and shoulders sculpture, which celebrates Sir John’s 25 years as head of the world-leading conservatoire (from 1971), will be revealed in a grand unveiling ceremony on Friday 21 June ahead of a spectacular concert featuring the RNCM Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir, under the direction of renowned conductor David Hill MBE.

Progress of John Manduell Sculpture

Images showing progress so far of Hazel Reeves’ sculpture of Sir John Manduell.

The commission was initiated by two members of Sir John’s original team, Bryan Fox and Richard Griffiths, and includes the creation of a unique plinth designed and made by RNCM alumnus Jonathan Stockton – now an internationally collected furniture designer and maker. The sculpture has been almost two years in the planning and will be installed in the main reception area of the College.

Following the merger of the Royal Manchester College of Music with the Northern School of Music, Sir John brought the newly created Northern College of Music to its purpose-built premises on Oxford Road in 1973. It was granted the Royal Charter in July of that year, becoming the RNCM.

Prior to leading the RNCM, Sir John enjoyed a successful broadcasting career with the BBC, and later became Programme Director of the Cheltenham Music Festival and founding Chair of the European Opera Centre. He was a respected and commissioned composer whose work was premiered by the likes of the Hallé Orchestra and the Berkeley Orchestra of San Francisco. He received a CBE in 1982, was knighted in 1989, and was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 1990 – one of the highest honours the French Government can bestow.

John Manduell

Speaking about the project, Bryan Fox said: ‘Sir John is the most remarkable person it has been my privilege to know and to work with. His vision, energy, focus, meticulous care – not just for a succession of major undertakings, but also for the people who were involved in delivering them with him – quickly created a positive and inspiring atmosphere, enabling this young institution to record some truly extraordinary academic, artistic, and cultural achievements that characterised his tenure and remain a legacy which the RNCM continues to enjoy and enhance today.

‘We would like to express our debt to Hazel’s astonishing creativity and determination in realising such a wonderful and true likeness of Sir John in the 60 days since she received the commission. The way she has prepared the clay bust in readiness for transfer to the foundry illustrates her amazing skills and insight into the man who is being honoured.’

The project has been made possible by the generous support of the Ida Carroll Trust, which has met the costs. Ida Carroll OBE was a double bassist and composer from Didsbury who served as Principal of the Northern School of Music for 13 years, from 1958 to 1971. She joined Sir John’s team at the RNCM as Dean of Management.

Sir John’s widow, Lady Renna Manduell, said: ‘I am thrilled and delighted that John’s unique contribution has been recognised and I am most grateful to all those who have had the thought and clear-sighted vision to create this tribute to his many years of extraordinary energy and steadfastness.’

Hazel’s remarkable bronze of Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peter’s Square, Rise Up Women, attracted the attention of Bryan and Richard early in the project and led to her being commissioned. Speaking about the project, Hazel said visiting the RNCM had allowed her to fully appreciate Sir John’s significant legacy.

‘To see what the RNCM has grown into, it was like a blood infusion – seeing all these young people, all that talent, and the conservatoire itself made Sir John more tangible,’ Hazel added. ‘It really helped me to understand him and his impact.’

27 February 2024