ANDREW DOWNES YEAR OF REMEMBRANCE
By Christopher Morley
The turnout for Andrew Downes’ funeral in St John’s Church, Hagley, earlier this year was simply amazing, and was a sign of the affection which so many people held for this modest, unassuming composer. Andrew had suffered much ill-health for many years, including a long spell in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, but had always managed to compose, responding to commissions from all over the world, despite his physical difficulties.
After several months of deterioration, he was admitted into hospital on Christmas Day 2022, and passed away on January 2. “It was a huge shock,” said his violinist daughter Anna (she also has a sister, Paula, who is a singer), “because although he had been ill for so long he always bounced back with his usual resilience.!
Anna goes on to explain the reasons behind this huge outpouring of warmth for her father.
“Dad was quite simply a remarkable person. He had a magic about him. He was down to earth, kind, supportive, empathetic even in the face of his own pain. One of his carers remarked that he 'had the biggest heart'.
“He was also a rebel and saw straight through any pretentiousness. His family, students and (most) colleagues loved his rebelliousness combined with his care for and generosity towards others which was such a unique combination.
Dad believed that music and indeed the world should have no borders. He loathed the stuffiness of classical music and strived to liberate it which he succeeded in doing.
“Dad’s music is loved because it is beautiful. It bears the influence of Herbert Howells (his teacher) and Vaughan Williams among others but it is utterly unique. It encompasses real depth of emotion as well as rhythms and conventions of music from a wide variety of cultures.
“Like him, his music has no pretentions. It is honest and sincere.”
The Downes family (wife Cynthia, daughters Anna and Paula, and grandchildren) are presiding over a Year of Remembrance celebrating Andrew’s memory and music.
“Many people came forward with ideas of how to remember Dad and mark his passing,” Anna explains. “One concert would have been unmanageable and would have lasted days in length! Plus Dad's influence reaches worldwide as well as UK-wide. We wanted to ensure that his remembrance was as inclusive as possible, to reflect his character. This way, we can market and document events which are going on here and abroad.”
There are already many performances lined up from performers closely associated with Andrew's music, and Anna’s YouTube page features a map of Europe. Does she anticipate sticking little flags all over it as the year progresses?
“Haha! That's not something that I'd thought of but I'll pass it on to my sister who manages the
“Prospective performers or promoters can email me on email@example.com or they can visit Dad's Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064361452382 and send a message or post a comment which we will respond to.”