In tribute: Dr Anthony Gilbert (1934 – 2023)

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dr Anthony Gilbert on Wednesday 5 July at the age of 88.

Tony was the RNCM’s first Head of Composition, leading the School from 1973 until his retirement in 1999. Instrumental in building the enviable reputation that the department enjoys today, his music and teaching has shaped generations of RNCM composers over the years, and his passion for the College, our alumni, students and staff was unwavering.

As a prolific composer, Tony has been an influential figure in creating and championing new music in Manchester for over 50 years. He was an active committee member of the Society for the Promotion of New Music and the New Music Panel of North West Arts, and founder member and Artistic Director of New Music Forum, Manchester.

Professor Adam Gorb, who succeeded Tony as Head of Composition, said: ‘Tony Gilbert was an enormously important figure in new music in the North West right from the inauguration of the RNCM 50 years ago. Generations of student composers have benefitted from his guidance. He was a fabulous composer with a uniquely personal voice, and I feel honoured to have been considered as a colleague and a friend with such a special person since taking the post as his successor as Head of School of Composition. Tony was always engaging and principled, but also kind, funny and generous spirited. I will miss him greatly.’

Paying tribute to Tony’s legacy, alumna Alison Cox OBE said: ‘Dr Anthony (Tony) Gilbert will be sadly missed by all those of us who were his students at the RNCM over the years. He created the first-ever composition department in a UK conservatoire, a highly significant cultural and educational milestone in the UK. 

Many of us came to study at the RNCM during the 1970s specifically for the reason that no other conservatoire was able to offer composition as a principal study! However, Tony’s generous, visionary leadership created an outstanding, buzzing composition department that felt to us (his students) like an extended family. He supported us all in our creative, academic and social endeavours, and encouraged us to push ourselves to the very highest levels of achievement.

He was deeply loyal to friends and colleagues who supported his musical vision and enjoyed his company. He has left us a wealth of wonderful music, deeply personal, and full of colour and imagination. 

Tony – you were loved and admired by so many and will never be forgotten.’

Following his retirement, Tony continued to make regular visits to support and inspire our young musicians. Our thoughts remain with his family at this sad time.

Anthony Gilbert is pictured above, centre, with Professor Adam Gorb (left), and Dr Larry Goves (right), who takes over the reins in September following Adam’s retirement.

Funeral Arrangements

The funeral will take place at St Bartholomew Church, Wilmslow on Thursday 27 July at 12.30pm.

6 July 2023