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Remembering Paul Strang (1933-2024)

Thu 4 April 2024

Trinity Laban Honorary Companion and former chair Paul Strang has died, at age 91. Paul had been unwell for some time. Jeanne Strang, his wife, died in August of last year.

Paul was always interested in music and supporting young musicians to fulfil their potential. He joined the board of Governors at Trinity College of Music back in 1974, and became chair in 1992. He was instrumental in the creation of the Trinity College of Music Trust in 1984, and guided the establishment of Trinity College London in 1992. In 2001, he helped to develop the plans to move Trinity College of Music to Greenwich, and Paul’s support was crucial to the merger of Trinity College of Music and Laban Dance Centre to create Trinity Laban in 2005. During his time, Paul was instrumental in the appointment of three Principals: Meredith Davies in 1979; Philip Jones in 1988; and Gavin Henderson in 1994. In his role as trustee of the Helen Roll Charity and the Tillet Trust, Paul was also instrumental in providing vital financial support to dozens of our students over the years.

One former TCM staff member, Roger Pope, recalls an act of kindness from Paul and Jeanne. When TCM was at Mandeville Place, one day Roger was summoned to the front door to greet a Russian student who was joining for a year as a bassoonist. He was standing at the door with his bassoon case and a large suitcase, and his first question was “Where is my accommodation?”. It was about 4.30pm on the Friday afternoon before Enrolment Day. Having gleaned from this brief introduction that he had no idea of the British system – that accommodation was the student’s responsibility and should in any case be arranged in advance – Roger hurried to the Principal’s room with the vague idea of seeing if the College would foot the bill for a small hotel for the weekend while Roger endeavoured to sort out something permanent. Paul Strang was in with the Principal, simply lifted up the phone, rang Jeanne and asked if their basement flat could be made available to this student for the weekend. Roger took him up to the Strangs’ home in St. John’s Wood in a taxi, with his bassoon and suitcase, and they all had a very convivial half hour with a large glass of wine. Paul and Jeanne were very kind to the student over what turned out to be a rather extended weekend before he was settled.

Paul Strang was born in 1933 in Marlborough Hill, London. He attended the Montessori school, before his family moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb where his mother started doing air-raid precaution work. From 1940, his mother and adopted aunt ran a mobile canteen for the benefit of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They toured the bomb-sites of London, ministering tea and refreshment to the firefighters – when not at school, Paul would join these expeditions. He attended a boarding school in Shropshire while being a day boy at Arnold House, and his family members soon evacuated into the country for many years.

Paul finished his schooling in 1951 and was articled to the solicitor Arthur Underwood. While his family lived on the south coast, he lodged in London during the week with his mother’s old fried, Emmie Tillett, a renowned concert agent. Paul spent the next six years here while finishing his articles. Emmie Tillett worked with many celebrated musicians, and Paul was able to connect with the likes of Kathleen Ferrier, Myra Hess, Clifford Curzon, Solomon, Janet Baker, Lotte Lehmann, Zoltán Kodály, Shura Cherkassy, and Benjamin Britten. His father, Sir Thomas Beecham, was also based in the area. Paul qualified and bought a flat in London in 1962. He married his wife Jeanne in 1965, and together they moved to a house in London that they lived in for the rest of their lives. They were neighbours to Maggie Teyte, Gerald Moore, Jessie Wood, Sir Charles and Lady Mackerras during the period in which Charles attained his pre-eminence as a conductor, and Philip and Ursula Jones.

Paul will be greatly missed by us. His extraordinary contribution to Trinity Laban and the future of music in the UK leave a magnificent legacy. We will always be incredibly grateful for his unwavering support for our music community and will be forever grateful to have been part of his life.