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Anne Holmes MBE

In 2023 Cherubim received a substantial bequest out of the blue from the estate of Anne Holmes MBE, a musician, teacher and concert promoter.


Anne was a remarkable woman, and in every way a pioneer. Born in 1932 above her father’s grocery in Hainton Avenue, Grimsby, with no access to music, Anne first heard a piano while doing her father’s bread round. She was transfixed by the sound and approached the house, aged seven, asking to be allowed to listen. Within a few months Anne started piano lessons with Kathleen Davis, whom she had heard teaching a boy who went on to be a local music celebrity. 


Just after the war Anne was attending Wintringham Grammar School when her mother died. She was expected to leave school and help her father run the shop. But never gave up the piano, and not long afterwards word got out among local music teachers that Anne was a budding accompanist. By the late 1940s she was invited to play with the Cleethorpes String Orchestra at the Winter Gardens each month. Slowly her reputation grew as her musical range extended and in 1961 she received a great accolade by being appointed accompanist of the Grimsby Philharmonic Society, a choir which had developed a professional reputation under its conductor Alec Redshaw, and regularly featured top level soloists like Kathleen Ferrier and Elisabeth Schumann. As she became increasingly active as an event organiser Anne also became president of the Grimsby Bach Choir.


But by this time she had a demanding day job as PA to Carl Ross, MD of Ross Fisheries, owners of Grimsby’s largest trawler fleet, which was actively diversifying into frozen food brands, consumer products, and whose son was a founding investor in Carphone Warehouse.


In 1978, Alec Redshaw died suddenly, and Anne was foremost among a group who decided to create a living musical memorial in his honour. Thus the Great Grimsby International Competition for Singers was born in 1980, under the presidency of Sir Charles Groves, with distinguished judges like Elizabeth Harwood and Grimsby-born Norma Procter, then at the height of her career. Held triennially the competition ran for 15 years, and among its prize winners was Roderick Williams. Other names are emerging. During this time the total prize money rose from £1340 to £15,600. The competition came to an end as a result of a dispute within the organising committee about which Anne was barely diplomatic in a newspaper article. However in 1997 she was awarded an MBE.


Along with all her other activities Anne was an active piano teacher into old age and the posthumous tributes from her pupils are deeply moving.

“We spent long hours at her pianos - she teaching me to play and us both setting the world to rights. From her I learned to find the love and expression in each musical phrase but also what can be achieved in the local music community with rigorous organisation and determination. She left no stone unturned to champion the young people she worked with, myself included.”

“Without her guidance and support, I wouldn’t know where my life would have gone. Thanks to her, I am a confident musician and composer.”

“if I inspire or change the life of any of my students a fraction of the way she did mine, I will die happy.”


We do not know how, when or why Anne Holmes selected Cherubim Music Trust to receive half her estate; but we are profoundly honoured and determined to continue the work she pioneered. The first instrument bought in her name being this baritone sax for Cherubim Young Musician Marikit Akiwumi.

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