Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Jillian, MBE, says farewell as concerts Artistic Director

August 1st, 2015

A FAMILIAR FACE around the School of Music corridors has said a fond farewell after retiring from her position, in August, as Artistic Director for the department’s high-profile concert programme, after a decade and a half.

Jillian Johnson has been administering our prestigious concert seasons, principally in Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall but also in other venues on the campus, including lunchtime, weekend and midweek events, since 2000, but she has now decided to pass on the baton to others.

She has lived in Leeds or her life, and has actually enjoyed a 50-year association with the University. She studied biochemistry here in the mid-1960s. She explains: ‘My links with the School of Music started in the 1970s when I joined a group of students for viol lessons and then the Monteverdi Vespers choir, formed by a head of department Sandy Goehr.’

At the turn of the millennium, she was brought in on a temporary basis to fill in for the previous concerts admin who had ‘got a better offer from the Proms’, she says. The temporary post became permanent and she was appointed artistic director five years ago.

She has many happy recollections of her time in the position – ‘lots of memories, too many to list’– but she does remember a few challenging occasions she has had to manage over the years.

‘We had some interesting venues during the refurbishment of the concert hall – including recitals in the Union Bar! And a contemporary music concert that had to be hosted by Workshop Theatre as the performance required total black-out for audience and performers. Then, the recital for the opening of the newly re-furbished concert hall given by Murray Perahia was particularly memorable.’

Jillian mentions, too, the BBC lunchtime recital series as a highlight of her time, but she is also quietly proud of the 2013 award of an MBE for ‘services to higher education and music’.

What of the future? ‘I have no concrete plans. I will still have links with the School of Music and hope to be able to attend concerts as a member of the audience. I will continue my work with Leeds Baroque and perhaps have more time for gardening and my own musical activities.’


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