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Edward Downes (b1924)

Born in Birmingham, Edward Downes started to learn the piano and violin when he was five and sang as a boy chorister. At the age of sixteen he won a scholarship to Birmingham University where he studied English and music, and took up the horn. Having graduated at the early age of nineteen, he went on to postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music in London, where his professor helped him gain professional experience as a horn player, sending him to perform with the London Symphony Orchestra and other major London orchestras. He thus acquired valuable first-hand experience of orchestral music, and also started a lifelong involvement with opera. As Downes recalls, ‘In 1945, I played in the first performance of Peter Grimes at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and in 1946, in the opening performance of the Royal Opera House after the war. But I soon decided that playing the horn was not enough for me, as I wanted to be a composer and a conductor. At that time there were no conducting courses at all in Britain, so I left London.’




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