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News > Remembering > Remembering: Claire Seymour

Remembering: Claire Seymour

We are sad to hear of the passing of former staff member Claire Seymour, who taught music at Queen's. Here, she is remembered by her partner, David Butler. 

My partner, Claire Seymour, who has died unexpectedly aged 53, brought a passionate intensity, precision and perfectionism to her work as an educator, reviewer and musician.

Born in London, Claire grew up in Broadstairs, Kent, where her parents, Richard and Barbara, owned a convenience store. She attended Clarendon House grammar school for girls in Ramsgate.

The connection between words and music was at the heart of Claire’s intellectual life. After graduating from King’s College, Cambridge, in music in 1991, she pursued postgraduate studies in English at the University of Kent, earning an MA in modern literature followed by a doctorate. Her published thesis, The Operas of Benjamin Britten: Expression and Evasion (2004), the first book to analyse all of the operas, remains on university reading lists today.

In 1999-2000, Claire was the first woman appointed visiting lecturer in British studies at the University of Tokyo. Following this she embarked on a 15-year school teaching career, initially at Dover college, where she and I met, and then at Queen’s college, London. As head of sixth form she mentored students through university applications and excelled as a detailed, meticulous and punctual administrator.

Alongside her school teaching, Claire tutored on the postgraduate opera studies course at Rose Bruford College, taught on Open University summer schools for music, and edited The Thomas Hardy Society Journals (2005-08). Her scholarly contributions included editing Wordsworth editions of Hardy and Henry James, and she featured in discussion on the DVD of Polanski’s Tess.

In 2017, while continuing as an examiner in English with the IB, CIE and AQA boards, she became a full-time associate lecturer with the OU. Recognised as a talented and dedicated tutor in literature and music, she made a major contribution in securing the high rating of the department’s 2021 Research Excellence Framework submission, subsequently becoming an honorary associate. Claire also found great satisfaction in supporting prisoners to improve their lives through OU studies.

Her passions extended to reviewing classical music and theatre. In 2012, she became British editor for Opera Today, and contributed to other publications, including Opera magazine, subscribed to since her teenage years. Her prolific writing led a radio executive to speculate that a syndicate must be working under her name. She wrote programme articles for Glyndebourne and Wexford; edited for Plumbago’s Defining Opera series; contributed chapters for essay collections on Britten and Hardy; and appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters.

For relaxation, Claire was a semi-professional violinist. She played with Oare String Orchestra for 28 years, was a member of Kent Concert Orchestra and the Peycelon Quartet and often accompanied choral societies. She performed with the Lambeth Orchestra at their 40th anniversary concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, and cherished playing with them at Britten’s Snape Maltings in Suffolk.

Personally modest, Claire joyously celebrated literature and music; her dedicated teaching inspired others to share her passion.

She is survived by her parents and her brother Daniel.

This obituary was originally published in The Guardian.

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