Sir John Manduell CBE: 1928 – 2017

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Sir John Manduell, our Founding Principal, on Wednesday 25 October at the age of 89.

Born in Johannesburg in 1928, Sir John studied at the University of Strasbourg, Jesus College, Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music with Sir Lennox Berkeley. He joined the BBC in 1956 as a producer, becoming Head of Music for the Midlands and East Anglia in 1961. During this period he became the BBC representative on the Cheltenham Festival Management Committee. In 1964 he returned to London to plan and implement the new BBC Music Programme, (now Radio 3) leaving the company in 1968 to become the first Director of Music at Lancaster University. In 1967 he was approached to become Cheltenham Festival’s first Programme Director; a post which he held from 1969 to 1994.

Sir John Manduell and the RNCM’s first President, Katharine, Duchess of Kent, 1973

Sir John completed three years as first Director of Music at the new University of Lancaster. But In February 1970 in the middle of his second year at Lancaster he received a call from Sir Charles Groves explaining that a new music college was to be built in Manchester, amalgamating the Royal Manchester College of Music, (established by Sir Charles Hallé in 1898) and the Northern School of Music (which opened in 1928). The purpose behind the telephone call was a request that his name be put forward as Founding Principal. Building commenced in Manchester, advertisements appeared and in 1973 when the RNCM officially opened its doors, he was at the helm.

The late Michael Kennedy CBE recalled of the appointment: ‘The drive and energy which he brought to his work inspired staff and students from the start as did his determination that only the best would do for the College.’

Sir John Manduell with Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw and Michael Kennedy, 1990s

Sir John was in post until his retirement in 1996 and remains to this day our longest serving Principal. Professor Linda Merrick said in tribute: ‘The RNCM family was deeply saddened to hear the news of the death of Sir John Manduell, our inspiring Founding Principal. He was a man of extraordinary vision and talent and worked tirelessly to raise the profile of music and music education for so many people and organisations.

‘The staff, students and alumni of the College owe him a great deal, and our thoughts are with his wife Renna and family at this difficult time.’

A prolific composer and educator, Sir John was involved in setting up El Sistema in Venezuela, and served on the Boards of the British Council, Arts Council, Association of European Conservatoires, European Music Year, Northern Ballet, European Opera Centre and Covent Garden. He received a CBE in 1982, a Knighthood in 1989 and the Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1990. He has received Honorary Doctorates from Lancaster University, Manchester University and all of the UK’s Royal Schools of Music.

Funeral details

Sir John Manduell’s funeral will be held at 12 noon on Monday 6 November at St John the Baptist Church, Wennington Road, Low Bentham, North Yorkshire LA2 7DD, followed, by a ceremony at the Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium, Powder House Lane, Lancaster LA2 6AD at 2pm.

There will be a Reception from 3pm at the Bentham Golf Club, Robin Lane, High Bentham, LA2 7AG.

No flowers please but donations if wished to Help Musicians UK.

St John the Baptist Church is on the B6480 on the western outskirts of Low Bentham, just over the bridge from the Punch Bowl Inn.


26 October 2017