R.I.P. Claire Seymour (1970-2024)

It is with great sadness that we announce the recent sudden and unexpected death of Claire Seymour. After falling ill at the New Year and after a spell in hospital all seemed well and she was as active as ever working with students, marking exams, reviewing, researching and being an invaluable help to Gary Hoffman’s Opera Today and my Seen and Heard International.

Her biography on MusicWeb International can only touch on Claire’s expertise in many fields: Claire studied Music at King’s College Cambridge and subsequently completed an MA and PhD in English Literature at the University of Kent, where she researched Britten’s relationships with his poets and librettists. Her book, Expression and Evasion: the Operas of Benjamin Britten was published by Boydell in 2004, and most of her subsequent writing and teaching activities have been of an interdisciplinary nature. As editor of the Thomas Hardy Journal from 2005-09 she published extensively on Hardy and music, and Finzi’s settings of Hardy; she was the editor of John Cordingly’s 2015 study of madness and opera, Disordered Heroes in Opera: A Psychiatrist’s Report; she taught British Studies at Tokyo University for two years; and since 2006 has been an Associate Lecturer with the Open University in the departments of both Music and English Literature. From 2002-2017 she worked full-time in the secondary education sector, for many years as Head of the Senior College at Queen’s College London. During this time she has continued her work as a freelance violinist and in 2008 began writing music journalism and criticism.

It was in 2008 that Claire joined Opera Today and over time became the lead reviewer in the United Kingdom. She worked well with her colleagues and recruited a strong cadre of additional reviewers. Her reviews were eagerly anticipated and much appreciated by opera-lovers, concertgoers, actors, singers, musicians, orchestras, and venues etc. This applies equally to what she did for Seen and Heard International and other music websites and publications, including MusicWeb International, British Theatre Guide, The Stage and Opera Magazine. As recently as this January Claire had been carrying out some research at Aldeburgh for a further book on Britten.

It was only in the days prior to her death that I learnt how Claire had also at one time been the (non-dancing) head of postgraduate studies at the London School of Contemporary Dance and that week had enjoyed nights watching the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, not to review and simply for her own personal enjoyment.

Claire had so much yet still to achieve, and we hope her partner David in these difficult times will remember the good times they had together as no one will miss her more than him, though those who knew Claire and her work share deeply in his loss.

Jim Pritchard

For Claire Seymour’s reviews on Seen and Heard International CLICK HERE.

2 thoughts on “R.I.P. Claire Seymour (1970-2024)”

  1. The people who write for Seen and Heard and for MusicWeb are scattered all over the UK and, indeed, worldwide. It’s a fact of life, therefore, that one gets to meet only a few of one’s colleagues. For me, Claire was an exception to this rule: In recent years I met her and her partner David on a few occasions when both of us were reviewing events at the Three Choirs Festival. Both she and David were delightful, easy company.

    Claire was a very learned person but she was a modest person who wore her learning lightly and would never say or write anything that might verge on blowing her own trumpet. (She was, in any case, a violinist, and a highly accomplished player, I believe.) For some years I used to edit her Seen and Heard reviews but I felt an utter fraud: her copy was always immaculately presented and only required a quick read-through to check for the very occasional typo. In fact, I learned a great deal from reading her reviews and thoroughly enjoyed them. She had a most readable style.

    Claire was so busy that her writing for MusicWeb was far less extensive than we would have wished but she was a distinguished contributor to Seen and Heard. In addition, despite her very full schedule she gave Jim Pritchard a lot of help with the maintenance of the site.

    Claire was a fine and highly respected colleague who we shall all miss.

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  2. About the time Covid started I wrote to Claire congratulating her on a super article she had written on Ravel (I thought she ‘got’ Ravel which a lot of musicians don’t). Or was it an article on Finzi following concerts at the Barbican / St Giles Cripplegate? No matter. We exchanged lots of emails about stuff (covering novels about Elgar etc. etc/) and then I learned how knowledgeable she was about Thomas Hardy; well, she became the dream pen-friend for an old man who loved and ‘lived in’ the world that Claire served so well. We never met; the arrangement was that one day we would have an interval coffee at Wigmore Hall and I would say ‘Hello Claire, thank you for your wonderful writing and work; what would you like to drink?’. And now that I come start to make provisional arrangements … I am so so sorry for her partner (David) and colleagues. Words just flow so elegantly from some people and for me she always one of the most stimulating writers on music and more … Tovey, Richard Sylvester, Graham Johnson … thank you Claire.

    Jim for S&H replies: Paul, these two words seem inadequate for this wonderful remembrance of much-missed Claire … THANK YOU!

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