The Royal Manchester College of Music was a professional higher education institution for the training of music professionals.
It was set up by Sir Charles Hallé (who likewise founded the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester) under the conviction that musical talent from the north shouldn't have to be sent to London or Glasgow for formal training. The north should be able to keep and nurture its own talent.
It was opened in 1893 with Hallé as its principal, funded solely by private donation and subscription. Despite grand designs for attracting the highest talent from counties around, the first couple of decades saw the main body of students as middle class young ladies from Cheshire, learning singing, piano and violin as a final "ladylike accomplishment". A few strong names come forth in the teaching side such as principal Adolph Brodsky, cellist Carl Fuchs and composer Walter Carroll, and the odd promising student such as violinist Arthur Catterall, but it wasn't until after the First World War when things started to change.
After WW1, the government gave grants to returning men and women who served, in order to study music. A sort of cultural rehabilitation. The RMCM saw about 90 of these war torn veterans (including 1 woman) enter the student population. They wanted to study things that young ladies didn't such as brass and wind instruments, and thankfully a few tenor and baritone singers as well, to balance out the soprano overload.
It wasn't until after the Second Word War that composition and opera took centre stage. In the 1950s, a chap called Richard Hall was composition teacher at the college. Amongst his students were the likes of Harrison Birtwistle, John Ogdon, Elgar Howarth, Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr. They became New Music Manchester, a pioneering group that were dedicated to playing new compositions, and idea which changed the landscape of the country's classical repertoire.
Similarly in the 1950s a singer and singing coach Frederick Cox took principalship of the college. His focus was on performance, increasing the quantity and quality of public performances including a huge push to opera. His passion for vocal teaching attracted many prominent singers such as soprano Elizabeth Harwood and mezzo-soprano Ann Murray.
In the 1950s-early 1970s, due to financial pressures the college engaged in a plan with local councils and its neighbouring Northern School of Music to create a new music college, combining all efforts into one new institution. This was to become the Royal Northern College of Music, created in 1972 and still going strong today on Oxford Rd.
Biography added : 20th August 2020
by Heather Roberts