In Memoriam: Andrew Hughes (1937–2013)

January 2, 2014 by Communications

Born a Leo with a drive to dominate, Andrew Hughes was nevertheless possessed of a warm, deeply humane side that was evident to all who knew him. He once told me the story of how as a small boy he had feared for his life sitting in an underground bomb shelter as German planes thundered overhead. This was around the same time he mentioned the premature death of his father, exactly when I cannot now remember. Hughes’ genuine sympathy for those in need showed up throughout his professorial career; in the patient mentoring of individual students, for example, or in the pages dedicated to the music of the common people in his still original Style and Symbol: Medieval Music 800-1453 (1989). He will be remembered not only as an internationally renowned scholar of medieval music but as a caring teacher and friend to many.

Hughes was fond of relating that he had chosen medieval music at Oxford out of contrariness: it was the only subject left for which none had signed up. His study of the vagaries of prolation and ficta were rewarded with a BA at Oxford in 1960. Four years later at the same institution he completed his doctorate in late medieval English sacred music under the supervision of Irish musicologist Frank Harrison, whom Hughes used to jokingly say he only saw three times during his entire stay at Oxford. Even in the sixties, the path out of Oxbridge to academic employment was not an easy one. Professor Hughes wandered in the wilds of Ireland (Queen’s University, Belfast, 1962-4), the American West (University of Illinois, 1964-7), the South (Chapel Hill, 1967-9) and finally, taking after his advisor Harrison (Queen’s University, Kingston, 1935-45), Canada. He was eagerly hired at the University of Toronto’s fledgling musicology program by Harvey Olnick.

By the time of his hiring at Toronto, Hughes had made evident a leonine appetite for publication, with already a half dozen articles and one book under his belt, not to mention his landmark edition The Old Hall Manuscript (1969) in collaboration with Margaret Bent. For the following three decades, Hughes’ scholarly discipline never let up, yielding over sixty publications, not counting major articles for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, in both the 1980 and 2001 editions. Highlights include two still indispensable works: Medieval Music: The Sixth Liberal Art (1974) and Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to their Terminology and Contents (1982). By the time of the latter publication, Hughes had firmly established himself as an international authority on the late medieval liturgy and the rhymed office in particular. Significantly for our times, beginning in the early 1970s he pioneered the use of computers in the study of the medieval liturgy, eventually yielding Late Medieval Liturgical Offices: Resources for Electronic Research (1994-96). His institutional honours before his reluctant retirement in 2004 included being promoted to University Professor and elected as President of the Medieval Academy of America (2001-2).

To both students and colleagues, Hughes was known as a humour-filled eccentric and an enforcer of Oxbridgian propriety. Even now as I type these words, I slow down at the thought of what the master might have corrected! As a teacher, I can testify that Hughes was absolutely inspiring, standing tall in his academic gown, executing pedagogical antics and speaking with a daunting elocution, impeccable down to the occasional trilled R. Andrew Hughes was the consummate professor, unforgettable in a way that few of us can hope to be.

John Haines

A memorial service for Andrew Hughes will take place at the Trinity College Chapel, University of Toronto (6 Hoskin Avenue), on 11 March 2014, from 7-8 p.m. All are welcome at this celebration of the life of a distinguished scholar and wonderful mentor!