Andrew Downes, a distinguished British classical composer, left an indelible mark on the world of music. Born on August 20, 1950, his compositions resonate with audiences worldwide, reflecting his profound musical talent. He served as the head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire from 1992 to 2005, contributing significantly to the institution’s musical legacy.
Early Life and Education
Andrew Downes was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, and from an early age, it was evident that he possessed a remarkable musical gift. His educational journey took him to St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he earned a scholarship and eventually obtained a master’s degree in composition. In 1974, Downes had the privilege of studying under the guidance of the renowned composer Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music. These formative experiences laid the foundation for his illustrious career in music.
A Career in Composition
One of the pivotal chapters in Andrew Downes’ career was his role as the head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire. He held this esteemed position for over a decade, making significant contributions to the institution’s musical education and fostering the growth of aspiring composers.
Downes’ musical compositions transcended borders, receiving international recognition and acclaim. His works found their way to the airwaves through broadcasts on esteemed platforms such as BBC Radios 2, 3, and 4, BBC TV, France Musique, Italian TV, Austrian Radio, Dutch Radio, Czech Radio, and Central Peking Radio. The global reach of his music underscored its universal appeal.
Remarkably, Andrew Downes’ compositions have been preserved on seventeen CDs, a testament to the enduring beauty and significance of his musical creations.
Among his notable compositions, The Marshes of Glynn stands out, as it was commissioned for the royal opening of the Adrian Boult Hall in Birmingham in 1986. Additionally, his Centenary Fire Dances premiered at the City of Birmingham’s Centenary Festival of Fireworks and Music.
Downes also made substantial contributions to vocal music, including compositions for the Cantamus Girls Choir, song cycles performed by Sarah Walker and tenor John Mitchinson on BBC Radio 3, and anthems for the BBC 4 Daily Service.
His musical talent extended to various instruments, including the horn and piano. Notable works include the Sonata for Eight Horns, the Concerto for Four Horns and Orchestra, and the Concerto for Two Pianos.
Personal Life and Legacy
Andrew Downes’ dedication to music extended to his personal life. He married his wife, Cynthia, in 1976, and together, they embarked on a journey of musical collaboration. Cynthia played an instrumental role in publishing his music under the company name Lynwood Music.
On January 2, 2023, Andrew Downes passed away at the age of 72, leaving behind a rich legacy in the world of classical music. He is survived by his two musical daughters, Violinist Anna Downes and Soprano Paula Downes, as well as four cherished grandchildren.
In honor of his enduring impact, a performance prize was established in Andrew Downes’ name by Birmingham Conservatoire during his lifetime. This award, supported by his family, serves as a testament to his contributions to the world of music and his lasting influence on aspiring musicians and composers.