Women in Music were very sorry to hear of the passing of one of our founder members, Jane Manning, last month. We are very grateful to the composer and WiM founder Nicola LeFanu and the Ivors' Academy for allowing us to share this lovely tribute to Jane on our blog.
Jane Manning was a soprano who put
her artistry at the service of the living composer: she was a key figure in new
music in Britain for nearly sixty years. Her wonderful voice and superb
musicianship – perfect pitch and accurate rhythm – made her the most
sought-after singer for all of us in contemporary ‘classical‘ music. She gave
hundreds of concert and radio premieres, many being works specially commissioned
for her, as well as championing 20th century classics: Schonberg and Webern, Dallapiccola and
She worked with everyone – famous
elderly composers or unknown young ones – and the ease with which she tackled a
huge range of repertoire was amazing. Her voice was technically secure, due no
doubt to her training in traditional bel
canto with Husler and Rodd-Marling. She exploded the myth that singing new
music could damage the voice, inspiring a new generation of young singers.
Jane travelled all over the world,
touring in Australasia as well as Europe. In 1987-8 she was a Visiting
Professor at the University of York. Out of that time came ‘Jane’s Minstrels’,
the chamber ensemble she and her husband, the composer Anthony Payne, set up in
1988. Established in London, which was always her base, it drew in many of the
gifted young players she had worked with in York.
As well as a marvellous legacy of
recordings, she has left an invaluable legacy of books on 20th and 21st century
vocal music, including her research into Pierrot
Lunaire, of which she was a consummate performer.
Jane was very important to me and
my family: she made premiere recordings of Maconchy, Lumsdaine and myself, and
in 1977 created the lead in my first opera, Dawnpath;
indeed, one of my very first commissions, in 1971, was to write her a solo
scena, But Stars Remaining, which
true to form she kept in her repertoire. I shall miss her very much, as will my
composer colleagues; we owed her so much, and her passing marks the end of an
We are also grateful to the composer Margaret Lucy Wilkins for sending us her memories of Jane.
sad to hear of the death of Jane Manning. She
was a great pioneer of contemporary singing, and a champion of
living composers. Her gift of ‘perfect pitch’ made it possible for her
to render the most challenging vocal line as sounding effortless.
my great fortune that Jane gave the first performance and broadcast of
my work, Struwwelpeter. Written for Jane and The Matrix, with whom she gave
countless recitals, it was recorded at the Freemason’s Hall, Edinburgh, in
1974, and subsequently broadcast in a BBC 3 ‘Composer’s Portrait’ programme
Matrix ensemble consisted of 3 clarinets, piano and percussion, together
with Jane Manning, soprano. The other members of the group were Alan
Hacker, Francis Christou, Tony Coe (Clarinets), Carl Davis (piano) and
Tristan Fry (percussion).
and The Matrix toured nationally and internationally, giving many concerts and
broadcasts of contemporary music, and increasing the audiences with the
virtuosity of their performances.
thoughts are now with Jane’s husband, Anthony Payne.
Margaret Lucy Wilkins