May to June 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 May and June. So, what was early summer like at the NSM?

RSM scene with actors dressed in renaissance costume looking shocked.


Our very own RNCM Alumni is inherited from the original Matthay School of Music’s own Old Students’ Association. It did amazing work for the school and for many others. It was a separate organisation and published a magazine full of articles and updates from the alumni (check out our online exhibition with the Manchester Digital Music Archive to read them), they sponsored children in the Barnardo’s charity, and raised funds for school bursaries and building developments. It wasn’t all hard work and business, though. In May 1929, they agreed that an annual picnic should be held so people could connect. They played tennis and other games, and despite the inevitable weather, they met for games regardless.

Hilda Collens died in 1956. From the account in the archive, she went to the school on a typically busy Friday, the 27th of April, but died the next morning of a heart attack. The whole school was in mourning and came together to grieve on 2nd of May, at Holy Innocent’s Church in Fallowfield, for a memorial service.

In a crowning glory at the end of the Northern School of Music’s time, one last rivalry was played out. In May 1970, the NSM football club defeated its rivals, the football team of the Royal Manchester College of Music, in a smashing 9-1 victory. With the collaboration of the RMCM and the NSM to form the RNCM, so too did the two football teams amalgamate as the Northern College of Music Association Football Club.


Welcoming in the summer and marching towards the end of the school year, the Northern School of Music students and alumni formed a special Ladies’ Choir for a BBC Northern radio broadcast on the 5th of June 1937. Sadly, we can’t find more information about this at the moment but we are optimistic that something will pop up eventually.

Twenty-one years as a school was celebrated in June 1941. It must have been a welcome break amidst the complexities and stresses of the Second World War. Especially since just a few months before, the Manchester Blitz had blown out all the windows of the school premises. This wasn’t going to stop them celebrating their achievements.

The Oxford Road premises were starting to become strained. Developments needed to be planned so in June 1945, the first of the fundraising concerts was given in Houldsworth Hall to raise the money. Eventually, the school raised enough funds to fix the broken bits and knock through to the bigger bits. This led the rabbit warren of corridors and mismatched walls that people remember.

“The Speech and Drama Association of the Northern School of Music” was formed by the course’s alumni on the 7th of June 1961. The Speech and Drama Department emerged from elocution classes and moved to delivering one act dramas but they weren’t taken from famous repertoire nor were they easy exercises for their students. Just before the Second World War, they took the stage at Manchester’s Central Library, and making the most out of the all-female cast, performed two recently published dramas. “Women at War” by Edward Percy dramatised the feelings of the Civil War through the eyes of the wives on both sides. “Unnatural Scene” by Kathleen Davey, described as “a play for and about women”, which debated the merits of martyrdom for less than worthy ideals in educating “gentlewomen”. Both interesting commentary on women’s roles and the tensions at the time.

What do you remember?

That’s what we’ve rustled up so far for what the school looked like in the early summer.

What memories do you have of the school, staff, students, performances and building? We’d love to hear about it. Contact our archivist [email protected] to contribute your memories to the school’s legacy.

For images from the archive, head over to our online exhibition with the Manchester Digital Music Archive.