Philip L Edwards: 18 July 1944 – 26 May 2013

Stefan Janski, the RNCM's Head of Opera, pays tribute to lighting designer Philip L Edwards (pictured above, left, with Stefan in 1992), who died on Sunday 26 May at the age of 68. 

Philip was RNCM Lighting Manager and Lighting Designer for numerous opera and performance projects at the College and on tour, from Purgatory and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1973 to, most recently, Kiss Me Kate in April of this year: 40 years of dedicated service to the students of the RNCM.

I had the privilege to meet and work closely with Phil in the RNCM Theatre since my arrival in January 1986 as a temporary substitute for my predecessor Malcolm Fraser to direct a series of opera excerpts. Together we collaborated on over 500 performances of opera excerpts, plays, workshops, trade shows, Outreach performance projects, galas and award-winning main stage opera productions.

It was Phil who took technical control and initiated the first RNCM opera surtitles produced on slides for Janá?ek’s opera From the House of the Dead presented in the original Czechoslovakian language in March 1989 and much appreciated by the audiences.

Phil was generous, kind, collegiate, creative, positive, patient, calm and always consistent in his passion for supporting and enhancing student performances. On his beloved motorbike wearing his bright yellow safety clothes, he would travel from Glossop and park outside the Theatre dock doors at 8am to open up and raise the safety curtain, often being the last out after 11pm when he had completed refocusing lanterns up and down the tallescope on stage. Fifteen hour days are not unusual in the theatre.

Nothing was too much trouble for Phil, his enthusiasm was boundless in support of staff and student initiatives to perform outside of the opera theatre in the Lord Rhodes Room, the Concert Hall, the roof garden, the upper and lower concourses and, from December 2001, for Tamerlano, the opening production in the RNCM Studio Theatre which was directed by Jennifer Hamilton and won a Manchester Evening News Award for Best Opera. Philip took ownership of the Studio, created the technical gallery and installed the lighting rig which have since continued to support student performances from across all schools of study.

Phil travelled with the RNCM students on tour to Los Angeles for performances in the Bing Theatre USC, and courtyard presentations in Aix en Provence and monasteries in Southern France. He also supported students and lit numerous productions that they appeared in for British Youth Opera and Clonter Opera.

Phil was a consummate professional and committed educationalist. I presented Phil for his Honorary Membership of the RNCM in December 2002, well deserved in recognition of his distinguished service to the College.

Phil will always be respected and remain in the minds and thoughts of all that met and worked with him. He leaves a dedicated wife Christine and two sons, Glyn and Gareth. 

May he now be pain free and rest in peace. With great fondness, respect, admiration and love. God Bless.  

28 May 2013