Jane Manning’s recent death has rightly been marked by prominent tributes and obituaries. Many people shared my sense that an important person in the musical world has left us. And indeed many of us have lost someone who was a unique mixture of friend, performer, teacher and more or less a family member. I often mention that, if it had not been for Jane’s constant encouragement and advocacy of my own work, I wouldn’t have been able to continue a career as a composer.
My photo shows a very happy occasion, only two years ago, when I was able to thank her publicly for all this, during a festival of my songs at the Guildhall School. This particular concert coincided with the fortieth anniversary of my first ever vocal composition, King Harald’s Saga, commissioned and premiered of course by JM (to the surprised people of Dumfries Music Club.) Also pictured is the excellent young soprano Katherine McIndoe, about to perform 'King Harald'. Characteristically Jane had already coached Katherine on the piece, in her semi-unofficial capacity as a visiting tutor at GSMD. I loved the way she managed to keep all these institutions at arm’s length, while still doing all the real teaching, and much more. A role model in every respect.
I will add, because I think Jane would have liked me to, that her two latest books about 21st Century Vocal Repertory have recently been published by OUP. Together they include short chapters on each of almost 200 recently composed vocal works, plus two splendidly trenchant prefaces, one which begins simply “I still believe, fervently, that in a healthy artistic milieu, priority should be given to the music of one’s own time”. What an artist, what a person.