First illustrated history of one of Britain’s finest performing arts schools.
Richard Rodney Bennett, Pierre Boulez, Adrian Boult, Edward Elgar, Louis Frémaux, Laura Mvula, Simon Rattle and Michael Tippett – just a handful of the world class musicians who appear in a new book which explores the history of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire; an institution which they all maintained strong links with throughout their illustrious careers.
Spanning more than 130 years, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: Inspiring Musicians Since 1886 written by Christopher Morley looks back at the institution’s modest beginnings and transports readers through time up to the present day.
From humble origins in the middle of the 19th century as a penny singing class within the Birmingham and Midland Institute, the Birmingham School of Music was finally established as a major force for musical education in 1886.
Christopher Morley’s illustrated history tells of the challenge it faced to forge an identity during the century that followed, eventually re-inventing itself as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, a school within the Arts, Design and Media Faculty of Birmingham City University and today, a studentship at the Conservatoire can put the world at a graduate’s feet.
Under Principal Professor Julian Lloyd Webber the music and drama academy is one of the leading lights of performing arts education in the UK, has an expanding international profile and since September this year, boasts a new state-of-the-art home in Birmingham.
Christopher Morley (front pic , left) said: “I felt immensely honoured when Professor Julian Lloyd Webber asked me to write a history of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, to coincide with the move to its fabulous new home. Throwing myself into the research proved fascinating, and it was a great thrill early on to unearth the ground plans for the original Birmingham School of Music housed within the imposing old Birmingham and Midland Institute.
“Another piece of good fortune came when I met some School of Music alumni from the distant past, who were generous with their store of memories of that original building. Presses had to be stopped in September when the happy announcement came that Her Majesty The Queen had graciously bestowed the accolade ‘Royal’ to the Conservatoire name. This is a wonderful period for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and I am thrilled that my book will be playing a part in the celebrations.”
Including archive photography and first-person recollections as far back as the 1940s, this new book, published by Elliott & Thompson reveals how the school came to earn its international reputation, highlights the supporting role of the wider University and focuses on the talents of the Conservatoire students themselves, both past and present.
Christopher Morley added: “Among the many reminiscences I garnered from alumni of many years ago was Margaret Cotterill’s memory of playing her clarinet in a basement practice room in the original Birmingham and Midland Institute home of the Birmingham School of Music, and realising a mouse was keenly listening to her.”
Since 1886, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has become a huge presence in the cultural life of its home city, while passing down the greatest standards of musicianship to the next generation. Looking to its bright future, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has recently moved into its new home and is now part of its parent institution’s City Centre Campus.
A unique contemporary building, it incorporates five public performance spaces including a new 500 seat concert hall for orchestral training and performance, a purpose-built organ studio and private rehearsal and practice rooms. Furthermore, as the first purpose built conservatoire in the UK since 1987, the £57 million institution is the only one of its kind in the country designed for the demands of the digital age.
The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will officially open on Sunday March 11 2018, marked by a Royal Gala concert conducted by City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director, .
Professor Julian Lloyd Webber (front pic, right), Principal, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, said: “2017 has truly been a momentous occasion for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. In September we moved into our new home and then, a few weeks later, we were granted a Royal title by Her Majesty The Queen. Now, Christopher Morley has delivered the best Christmas present we could have hoped for with his lavish illustrated history of the Conservatoire.
“The level of detail is impressive and I found out about so many things from our past that I didn’t know about. This book will delight music fans, but also those interested in local and cultural history.”
Christopher Morley is chief music critic for the Birmingham Post and writes for Musical Opinion, Classical Music and Opera, as well as contributing broadcasts to BBC Radio 3. He studied in the Music Department of the University of Birmingham, before taking up a career as a schoolteacher, serving as Head of Music in schools in Walsall, Edgbaston and Halesowen.
In 1988 he began teaching at Birmingham School of Music, lecturing in music history, performance practice, harmony and counterpoint, and aural training, as well as liberal studies, music journalism and criticism. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 2002 and retired from the Conservatoire in 2010.