Derek William Downes
(21 April 2005)
The University announces with deep regret the death of Mr Derek Downes on 14 April 2005.
Mr Downes was first appointed as a Lecturer in Music at St Hild's College, Durham, in 1962. In 1979 he was appointed as a University Lecturer in Music and held this post until his retirement in 1994.
Born on 4th November 1933 in Newcastle upon Tyne, Mr Downes attended Royal Grammar School from 1945 until 1953. He then attended King’s College Newcastle at the time that it was part of Durham University.
He was répétiteur of the Palatine Opera Group in Durham and Durham County Opera from 1961 until 1968 and from 1970 until 1980 respectively. In this burgeoning time for opera, his contribution as an accompanist for rehearsals was very significant.
In addition to developing performance studies within the curriculum, Mr Downes made significant contributions to the musical life of the University and the wider community through his activities as a violinist, répétiteur and conductor, founding and leading both the Durham Chamber ensemble and the Durham Sinfonia Orchestra.
The Durham Sinfonia Orchestra is a semi-professional orchestra which has given many major concerts over the years. Mr Downes’ contribution to it was tireless and led to a long string of musical successes until his retirement in 1989.
In addition to all this, he was also conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra from 1983 until 1988. Peter Manning, Professor of Music and Head of Department, said, “He was a great asset to the University in his unflagging pursuit to stimulate and support musical activities, both within the University and in the wider community. He will be sadly missed.”