Christine Brown Dies Aged 78

Christine Brown Dies Aged 78
Faber Music is sad to report the death of the renowned composer, editor and piano teacher Christine Brown, who has died of cancer at the age of 78. Christine dedicated her life to teaching piano and inspiring musicians of all ages.

Born and bred in Yorkshire, Christine went to London at the age of sixteen where she had been awarded a Foundation Scholarship to the Royal College of Music. On returning to Yorkshire she won the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra Concerto Soloists competition, but soon decided that it was in the field of teaching that she wanted to dedicate her career.

She taught in various schools in the area including Woodhouse Grove School near Bradford, Harrogate Ladies College in Harrogate and later as a lecturer at Bretton College near Wakefield. Eventually she took the courageous step to "go solo" and moved back to Leeds as a private teacher. She soon built up a successful private practice with pupils of all ages.

As a talented composer herself she was able to write attractive pieces to help pupils in the early stages of learning and these were published as a series of albums. A sight reading series followed entitled Play at Sight and this was recently updated by Christine and republished under the same title by Faber in one book which has received high critical acclaim.

Christine was one of the first people to join EPTA in its fledgling stages and she set up and ran the Yorkshire branch for fifteen years. She also became a member of the ISM and was the warden in Yorkshire. Christine continued to support both organisations throughout her life. Her smiling face and brightly attentive eyes were a well recognized sight at EPTA meetings and conferences where other delegates were always amazed by her boundless energy. She gave many talks both at home and abroad on a diverse range of subjects from strategies for sight-reading to the piano works of Purcell. One of her great passions was the music of Bartok and she was considered an expert in this field.  She met Bartok's son Peter in the course of her research and even started to learn Hungarian in the quest for further knowledge. In 1988 she was commissioned by Boosey & Hawkes to write Mikrokosmos: A Guide for Piano Teachers to coincide with their definitive new edition of Bartok's Mikrokosmos.

Early on in her career, Christine recognizes the value of ensemble playing. She herself formed a group, the Chandos Quartet, comprising of herself and three other pianists. They performed concerts across the Yorkshire region of works of four pianists at two pianos and had a piece especially written for them by Graham Fitkin entitled Sciopathy. Christine herself published two elementary duet albums, arrangements of Folk Tunes from Around the World. She was also editing a collection of duets for Faber Music in 2009 when her cancer was diagnosed. She managed to complete the collection despite being very ill and this has just been published under the Real Repertoire Duets.

Editing was another field in which Christine was able to bring her considerate expertise. The combination of her wealth of knowledge of music and teaching the pieces herself meant that she was an informed and sensitive editor. She herself was keen to have some of her favourite teaching repertoire gathered together and published as a legacy for future generations. This has led to the highly successful five albums in the much respected Real Repertoire series plus a further three albums of Real Repertoire Studies with Faber Music.

Christine was always open to new ideas and not afraid to embrace modern technology. When digital pianos started to appear on the market, she was quick to recognize their potential as a teaching tool and was employed by Yamaha to tour with them in the Far East, demonstrating how their Clavinova range could be used in teaching and to aid pupils in their practice at home. Some years ago she bought herself a computer which enabled her to print her own music and set up her own website where many of her talks and publications are listed.

Enjoyment was a key factor in Christine's teaching. She was so enthusiastic herself and had such great passion and commitment that her pupils could not fail to share her joy. During school holidays she would frequently hold "Play Days" for her younger pupils, giving them the opportunity to meet together in groups and play games designed to develop their musicianship and knowledge of music theory in a fun and accessible way. Her pupils were always highly successful at festivals and competitions where they stood out because of their excellent technique and thorough preparation. Many of their ex-pupils kept in touch with her long after they had left the area and would still come back to visit her to ask for her advice or give them a lesson if they had a performance or music exam coming up.

Christine herself never married and her puils were like family to her. A few years ago she set up the Christine Brown Trust for Young Musicians a charitable organisation enabling young musician in the Yorkshire region who are in financial hardship to apply for funding to help them to meet the expenses involved in learning a musical instrument. She was delighted when an application was implemented in 2008 so that she could see it come to fruition.

Christine's insatiable thirst for knowledge led her to study extra degrees in subjects such as philosophy of education and in law. She gained a music degree at York University ten years ago. Her bungalow was crammed full of books on all kinds of subjects as well as a huge collection of CDs and piano music. She had a "sight reading library" containing over 600 books which her pupils were able to play a wide range of music. "Her bungalow is like a power house of music and intellect" was how a colleague recently summer it up!

Christine's pupils will always remember her warm personality and the encouragement she gave them. Perhaps this quote from George Bernard Shaw best sums up Christine';s approach to lice and her legacy to us all: "Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold on for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

Hilary Garrett, 2009