English Composer Andrew Downes has Died, Aged 72

The former Head of Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has passed away after battling long-term health conditions 


Andrew Downes was born in Birmingham, England, in 1950 into a family of musicians. A composition graduate of St. John’s College, Cambridge, he went on to study with Herbert Howells at London’s Royal College of Music in 1974.

For 30 years between 1990 and 2005, Downes served as Head of Composition and Creative Studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC). He wrote three symphonies, an opera, numerous concerti, chamber works, song cycles, piano music, plus a large body of choral and sacred music.

Performed internationally to great acclaim, Downes’ music was commissioned by Birmingham’s Royal Opening of the Adrian Boult Hall, BBC Radio 4 Daily Service, City of Birmingham, and the University of New Mexico, among others. Over 20 CDs of his music have been distributed on a range of record labels.

Additionally, his music was performed at the Tanglewood Festival, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Horn Society, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, China Film Philharmonic Orchestra, and broadcast on Central Peking Radio, BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4, BBC TV, Czech Radio, France Musique, Italian TV, Austrian Radio, and the Dutch Radio.

Downes was a Life Fellow of the RSA and of the International Biographical Association, Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire, president of the Central Composers’ Alliance, and patron of the Midland Chamber Players. In 2014, he was made Emeritus Professor of Birmingham City University for his work at RBC.

“In establishing and developing composition/music creation as a subject area at RBC, Andrew was a visionary and years ahead of the field,” stated Joe Cutler, RBC’s Head of Composition in a tribute

“Andrew embraced everything within music, but most especially, he nurtured everything connected to the communal act of making music. He saw it as something far beyond the inflexible boundaries of genre. He was warm, generous, funny, passionate, bold, inquisitive and inclusive. All these values are reflected in his music which stands as a powerful legacy.”

“We are heartbroken…No one fought more valiantly than Dad to embrace every second of his time on earth and we could not be prouder or love him more,” wrote Downes’ children. “Dad was the most charismatic, funny, kind and decent person ever to have walked the earth and right now it’s so hard to imagine him not being here, but we are so lucky to have had him in our lives and that his amazing music will live on — what a legacy he has left us,” they continued.

“To the bravest, kindest, most beautiful Husband, Dad, Grandad, Brother, Uncle, Teacher and so much more — Rest in Peace — we will miss you more than we can express.”

Our condolences to Mr. Downes’ family, friends, students, and colleagues.



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