March to April at the Northern School of Music

We’ve been rummaging around in stories and archives to find out what changes and events were happening at the Northern School of Music at various points over the years.

As well as exploring the Northern School of Music timeline, here you can delve into the happenings and goings on in the school during March and April!

Hilda Collens and her students.

Hilda Collens and her students


In 1937, great friend of the Northern School of Music, Clifford Curzon, gives two full days of master classes in piano playing for the students of the school. Curzon was one of many visiting lecturers who supported the school’s teaching offer and was a student of Tobias Matthay just like Hilda Collens.

In 1958 Ida Carroll was unanimously voted as principal of the school after spending 2 years as “acting principal” after the death of Hilda Collens in 1956. She would spend the next 15 years steering the Northern School of Music through the merger with the Royal Manchester College of Music, the outcome of which was us! The Royal Northern College of Music.

Also in 1958, the school is granted some much needed financial reprieve. The school is funded by tuition, donations but heavily supported by local councils who residents attend the school. All at the same time, 4 local councils raise their support – Manchester, Cheshire, Salford and Lancashire. Notably, Manchester’s funding increases from £750 to £1000 and Cheshire raises its support quite significantly from £25-£250!

On the 19th of March in 1963, a coach full of students, staff and friends journeyed to London to support Alfreda Hodgson in her London debut. One of the most famous of the school’s alumni, she performed as a soloist with all the country’s leading opera companies. She tragically died from cancer in 1990.


Some Northern School of Music pupils were part of the National Youth Orchestra. In April 1950, Joan Farrow and Harry Brennand, performed in Paris with the orchestra. They reported back to the school that they were lamenting a good cup of tea at the end!

Check mate! In 1950 the school chess club commenced, and “even at the outset some hotly contested games were played.” Fond of games, the Northern School of Music also played tennis in summer and had a football team whose rivals were of course the Royal Manchester College of Music.

28 April 1956, Hilda Collens dies at home from heart attack. Dorothy Pilling writes in the school’s magazine “it is in our hands now.” Hilda Collens was born in 1883 and worked tirelessly from when she formed the school in 1920 until the day before her death. She was reported as being in good spirits, despite ongoing health issues when she left the school on Friday. She died the following morning. Ida Carroll was confirmed as “acting principal” of the school on the same day.

Yet again the idea of a single music education institution is proposed by the local councils, hoping to convince the Northern School of Music and the Royal Manchester College of Music, that one school is more easily funded than two. So, on the 23rd of April 1959, new school designs are proposed, timed to coincide with the planned demolition of the NSM premises to make way for the Mancunian Way flyover. The plans show allowance for 500 fulltime students costing £263k to build. The Northern School of Music outright objected. There were no provisions for part-time, junior and drama students, not to mention that a capacity of 500 students would be nowhere near enough to cover all the students of both schools – someone would be missing out.

Some Aprils later, in 1971, the foundation stone for the Northern College of Music, now the Royal Northern College of Music, is laid. After nearly 20 years of negotiations, the new music school is nearly ready.

A man and woman unveiling of the RNCM foundation stone with a crowd of people behind them.

RNCM foundation stone