The Colin Touchin Music Leadership Award

Colin Touchin was a highly talented and widely respected musician. Although his main instrument was the clarinet, he made his name through conducting, composing, teaching and adjudicating.

He studied music at Keble College, Oxford. There being no Wind Orchestra at the University at the time, Colin and some other students set about founding the Oxford University Wind Orchestra, with Colin as its first conductor. That orchestra celebrated its 50th anniversary in February 2023.

After graduating, he taught for some eight years at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester. He also conducted a number of amateur groups, including the Gorton Philharmonic Society and the Stockport Youth Orchestra, and was a staff tutor at the Stockport Recorder College.

He subsequently moved to Coventry as the Director of Music at the University of Warwick, a post he held for almost 15 years, before becoming freelance. During his time in Coventry, he conducted the University of Warwick Chamber Choir, the Warwickshire County Youth Orchestra, the Birmingham Clarinet Choir and the Birmingham Schools’ Wind Orchestra. He also conducted the National Youth Wind Orchestras of Great Britain, Wales, Luxembourg and Hong Kong. He founded many award-winning musical groups, dramatically increasing both the number of musical ensembles and the number of performances given. It is believed that, through his efforts, the University picked up more prestigious performance awards than any other at the time, despite not having a faculty of music. He was also able to realise a long-standing dream of his mentor, Dennis Bamforth, when he founded the National Youth Recorder Orchestras.

He later established Spires Music in Coventry, an innovative scheme which allowed amateur instrumentalists and singers to put on concerts with the direct support and guidance of professional musicians, to the benefit of all involved; the Spires Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus continue very successfully to this day.

Colin with the Spires Orchestra and Chorus (left) Rehearsals at the Royal Albert Hall (right)

Having been attracted to Hong Kong and spending more and more time there, he eventually settled there in 2015. There, he was Musical Director of the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir, and of Grace Notes, an a capella female choir, he established the British Brass Company of Hong Kong, and he was also guest conductor of the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong and of Tak-Ming Philharmonic Winds. He broadcast regular programmes on Hong Kong Radio (RTHK) Radio 4, where he was a weekly host and presenter of numerous music programmes, including In Touch With Music, and a weekly Wednesday morning guest on Phil Whelan’s RTHK Morning Brew radio show.

In 2014, he was appointed as the Chief Conductor of the Lufthansa Orchestra in Frankfurt.

During his career, he composed numerous works, including oratorios, sinfoniettas, and a range of chamber works, mainly dedicated to the various amateur groups with which he was associated. His early oratorio, ‘Hilarion’, was performed at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall in 1997.

As well as composing, conducting and teaching, he was much in demand as a festival adjudicator. For nine years, he regularly conducted and adjudicated at the Dartington International Summer School, having been for many more years an adjudicator member of the British and International Federation of Festivals and as well as serving as the Federation’s Vice-Chairman.

Colin sadly died in September 2022, having remained active in the international music field almost to the end. He achieved a great deal in organising, nurturing, promoting and encouraging music making, particularly amongst amateur and younger musicians. This Award seeks to ensure that his exemplary record of leadership in music can serve to inspire young musicians today to develop their potential to be a leader in the music of the future.

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