A headshot of former RCM vocal professor Stephen Roberts, a white man with fair hair, smiling at the camera.

Obituary Spring 2023

In memory

The Royal College of Music was saddened to learn of the deaths of a number of former students, staff and supporters.

Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts, one of Britain's foremost concert and oratorio performers and a beloved teacher at the RCM, passed away in December 2022.

Born in Rhyl, Wales in 1949, Stephen was immensely proud of his Welsh heritage. He studied at the Royal College of Music from 1967–72, pursuing singing with Gerald English and Redvers Llewellyn and organ under Harold Darke. After graduating, Stephen went on to become a Lay Vicar at Westminster Abbey from 1972–77.

Stephen was a champion of the English Choral tradition, collaborating with acclaimed conductors such as Sir David Willcocks and Richard Hickox. Over the course of his career, he worked with many renowned orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society, and regularly appeared at the BBC Proms.

Nicholas Sears, Head of Vocal and Opera, says: ‘Kindness, generosity of spirit and a profound love and understanding of music meant that Stephen’s presence within the community of the Vocal and Opera Faculty was always positive and youthful. He inspired each new generation of young singers passing through the College whether in one-to-one teaching, faculty classes or becoming the welcoming face of the RCM during annual auditions.

‘Stephen was unstinting in his support of colleagues through good and more testing times, providing gentle mentorship and guidance. He wore his own stellar career lightly, delighting in placing his own unique insights and experience at the service of the next generation of young RCM singers.

‘Stephen’s love of the RCM was unmatched by any individual I have yet met during my time within the faculty, and we continue to miss his presence on a daily basis whilst celebrating his exceptional and enduring contribution to both music and musicmaking.’

The Summer Term opera will be dedicated to Stephen's memory. Details will be available from 5 April on our events pages.

Gillian Molly Gilder (née Brettell)

RCM alumna Gillian Gilder died on 30 December 2022 after a courageous battle with a rare form of cancer.

Gillian was born in 1940. In 1952, she was awarded a music scholarship to Moreton Hall School, Shropshire. She won Third Prize on the violin and piano at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 1954 and 1955. In her final year at school, Gillian achieved her ARCM in Violin Teaching and her LRAM in Piano Teaching.

In 1959, Gillian joined the Royal College of Music as an internal student to benefit from advanced musical training, while also working towards her performers’ LRAM on the violin and piano. She left the College in 1960 after her first marriage. Gillian had five children, one of whom is Beverley Craven, the renowned singer songwriter. She also had 13 grandchildren.

Dr Anne Sterndale-Bennett

Dr Anne Sterndale-Bennett, a student at the Royal College of Music in the 1930s, died at the age of 104 on 21 December 2022.

Anne was a direct descendent of the composer William Sterndale-Bennett. She was the younger daughter of Robert Sterndale Bennett, a longstanding director of music at Uppingham School, who together with his brother Tom (‘T.C.’) were both alumni of the RCM.

Anne won the Savage Club Exhibition to the Royal College of Music to study viola and piano, graduating as ARCM in 1939. With war looming she decided to forego a musical career to train as a medical doctor at King’s College London then specialising as an ophthalmologist, which she practiced for 62 years in Kent. She maintained a close association with several musical organisations, but most notably with the College and as a donor.


Donald Parr

Donald Victor Parr died on 3 November 2022 aged 85. He was a longstanding friend and supporter of the Royal College of Music.

Donald’s passion for world-class music started at a young age, and by the time he got to Cambridge, he was a keen timpanist playing for the university orchestra under David Willcocks. His passion continued and deepened, becoming a regular attendee of RCM performances. Ever inclusive, Donald introduced many people to great music. His family, friends and colleagues will always be grateful that he shared with them his enthusiasm for his favourite works, but also for discovering new and exciting material.

One of his family’s most cherished memories of him will be sitting next to the radio in the kitchen raising his hands and arms to an invisible orchestra, and conducting them with theatrical and rhythmic exuberance.


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