MARGARET Griffiths, York Opera's first (and so far only) female musical director, has died at the age of 76.

She passed away at her home in southern France, to which she moved some years ago, on November 1.

Paying tribute Margaret's friend, the former York Opera president Clive Goodhead, said she had been 'a talented, highly respected musician, an influential educator, a loyal friend and a brave, steadfast soul'.

She was also a 'brilliant pianist' who had a favourite party trick, added York Opera member Pauline Marshall.

"She would sit on the floor with her back to the piano, cross her hands over her head, and play 'God Save the King'," Pauline said.

Margaret - née Margaret Martin - was born and brought up in Bishop Auckland.

She showed musical talent as a pianist from an early age, and went on to train at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, and then at Reading University and London University’s Institute of Education.

She taught for 12 years in secondary schools and then became a teacher trainer at London University.

In 1985 she joined Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools as a music specialist, becoming Ofsted’s specialist adviser for music from 2000.

On joining the HMI, Margaret was posted to York, to the then local office at St Saviour’s House in St Saviour’s Place.

She soon became involved in York Opera, acting as Assistant Musical Director under various conductors. In the 1990s she herself took over as Musical Director.

Her productions included Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Nicolai’s The Merrie Wives of Windsor and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore. Margaret stood out as a conductor for two reasons, Clive Goodhead said. "Firstly, she was female; and secondly, she was lefthanded. At the time, neither attribute was common in such a leading role.

"Margaret’s sheer musicianship and able leadership had a clear impact on the quality of York Opera’s music, most notably the group’s choral singing, based firmly on her attention to such details as note values and variations in volume, from softer to louder singing.

"In addition, her knowledge of suitable carols, again with scrupulously high expectations about quality, led to a memorable series of Christmas concerts for which York Opera became popular in the city and surrounding villages."

Margaret retired in December 2006 and became a freelance music education specialist.

"It was a joy to her to have links with the School Proms, involving young musicians from across the country and mounted annually, often at the Royal Albert Hall," Mr Goodhead said.

Margaret moved to France some time after retiring.

"Her sadly final homeland was in France, where to the end she pursued her musical interests with a new, supportive set of friends," Mr Goodhead said.

"She will be missed and mourned by many here in the United Kingdom, especially in the York area."

Margaret Griffiths (formerly Martin), 1946-2022