Chetham’s School of Music
Convicted of indecent assault: The choirmaster who abused girls and the twisted wife who joined in
By Tom Henderson and James TozerBrave: Mrs Andrade faced her abusers in the court by choice in a ‘cathartic’ experience, the judge in the case said
From the moment Michael Brewer set eyes on 13-year-old Frances Andrade, the grooming process began.
The director of music first asked the prospective pupil to improvise Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree on the piano.
A barrage of flattery then followed: ‘Of all the thousands of auditions I have sat through, that was one of the two best I’ve ever heard.’
With that, the teenager won herself a place at Chetham’s School of Music, unaware her talent had delivered her into the hands of a man with a perverted predilection for his young, female pupils.
Soon after starting at the £30,000-a-year boarding school, the abuse began, first with groping, then other sex acts. The scene would switch from Brewer’s office to music rooms and to his camper van.
Ultimately, she would even be abused at the home he shared with wife Kay, and their four daughters.
On that dreadful occasion, it was Mrs Brewer who was the abuser.
Aware of her husband’s twisted ‘relationship’ with Frances, she told the teenager ‘You owe me’ before indecently assaulting her.
The details of the abuse, which culminated in a trial that concluded yesterday with the conviction of the couple, both 68, on charges of indecent assault, are shocking enough.
But what makes this story uniquely terrible is the fact that Mrs Andrade did not live to see the people who ruined her life brought to justice.
Just over two weeks ago, on January 24, she committed suicide. Hours earlier, Mr Brewer had given evidence in court. ‘She was vivacious, dynamic, commanding on stage but underneath was insecure, depressive, hysterical and a fantasist,’ were the words he used to describe his accuser.
The idea that he had ever abused the then-teenager in the way she herself had accused him of doing when standing in that same witness box just days earlier was, he said, ‘repulsive’.
- Violinist’s anguish in blow-by-blow account of her cross-examination as accuser’s lawyer branded her a fantasist
- ‘This feels like rape all over again’: Violinist driven to suicide by ordeal of trial after being branded a ‘liar and fantasist’ by woman QC
Mrs Andrade was not there in person to hear Brewer attempt to brutally dismiss her evidence and her character.
She was at home in Guildford, Surrey, looking after her musician husband, Levine, who suffers from ill health and with whom she has four children. Within hours, she had taken her own life, the toll of the trial proving too much for her.
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Guilty: Michael Brewer, 68, left, and his ex-wife Hilary Kay Brewer, right, have been found guilty of sexually assaulting a former student of his 30 years ago. Frances Andrade killed herself during the trialThe jury heard that the police investigation was sparked by National Youth Choir teacher Jenavora
The full circumstances surrounding her death will be revealed at an inquest, but the sad truth is that no one apart from Mrs Andrade emerges from this sorry story with their reputation intact.
Certainly not Mr Brewer. It was revealed during the court case that, as well as abusing Frances, he had also leched after, groped and exposed himself to other female pupils.
Not his ex-wife Kay, who, when later confronted by Frances about what had happened, laughed it off as ‘a bit of fun’.
Not Chetham’s School of Music, Britain’s most prestigious music school, an institution that over the decades has shaped some of the most talented classical musicians.
Questions are now being asked about why the school failed to properly investigate Mr Brewer’s behaviour and about just how widespread abuse of female pupils was. And not the adversarial British judicial process which saw a fragile victim forced to face her abuser across a courtroom and then have her integrity challenged in cross-examination.
That Mrs Andrade found herself at the centre of a court case was not of her doing. She had never reported Mr Brewer for the offences that took place decades back in the 1970s and 1980s. Instead she had moved on with her life and was married with children.
Convicted: Michael Brewer and his ex-wife Hilary Kay Brewer, known as Kay, were found guilty of indecently assaulting the victim but cleared of her rape
But, in the summer of 2011, she confided in a friend, Jenevora Williams, about happenings at Chetham’s. Horrified, Mrs Williams reported what she had heard to police. When contacted by detectives, Mrs Andrade was reluctant to co-operate.
‘As far as I was concerned, it was too historical,’ she would later tell the court. But she changed her mind after being asked directly by police whether the allegations were true. They were, she said. The Brewers were arrested, questioned and ultimately charged.
On January 15, the trial began in Manchester. With no corroborating physical evidence – no DNA, no CCTV, no medical notes – the case was always going to come down to Mrs Andrade’s word against that of the Brewers.
But what the prosecution did have, as we shall see, was a witness who could expose the teacher’s sick modus operandi. Like most abusers, Mr Brewer operated from a position of power and authority.
Chetham’s, which was established in its present form in 1969, is the largest specialist music school in the country, with some 300 pupils.
It is co-educational and takes children aged between seven and 18. The majority are there as boarders, the fees heavily subsidised by the Department for Education under a scheme designed to help talented musicians reach their potential.
Entry to the school has always been based solely on musical potential – hence Mr Brewer’s pivotal role.Taking advantage: Brewer was a powerful figure at the Chetham School of Music
The son of a brass foundry engineer from Shropshire, he showed musical talent at an early age. He excelled at singing and went on to conduct the University of Wales choir, where he studied music.
Afterwards, he became a teacher, marrying his wife Hilary (known by her middle name Kay) at the age of 22.
He then landed a job at Latymer School in Edmonton, North London, before moving to Chetham’s, where he was made director of music in 1975. Any pupils wanting to attend the school would have to pass muster with him.
Colleagues mostly agree he was brilliant at his job.
‘From a musical point of view, he was outstanding,’ explained one former pupil. ‘He basically turned Chetham’s into one of the great music schools in the world, bringing children from all sorts of backgrounds together.
‘But many pupils were very vulnerable. They were very talented but were plunged into a competitive environment where teachers’ approval was everything.’
Mr Brewer was well aware of his power, and happily abused it, earning him the nickname ‘Brewer The Screwer’.
‘He was always flirting and joking with the girls,’ said the source. ‘I remember at 15 the time he asked a girl in my class to massage his shoulders. It just felt wrong.’
Mrs Andrade’s testimony exposed him not only as a lech – but a paedophile too.Tragic: Frances Andrade killed herself after the stress of the rape trial
He preyed on her because she was vulnerable. Not only had she been adopted as a child, but she claimed to have suffered sexual abuse as a young girl before arriving at Chetham’s. Her adoptive parents were not involved in this abuse.
She was, she admitted, rebellious and disruptive – behaviour that would bring her further into Mr Brewer’s orbit.
‘Mike would say I bewitched him,’ Mrs Andrade told the court. ‘That he found me irresistible, that he found me wise, wonderful, hugely- talented and that these feelings could not be wrong because they felt so right. He’d touch me with his hands and he’d touch me all over my body, my breasts.’
Mr Brewer was soon inviting the teenager into his office – sometimes sneaking her through a side door to stop his secretary becoming suspicious – and engaging in sex acts with her. The camper van which he used to commute to school from his home in now-fashionable Chorlton also became a scene for regular abuse, with the schoolgirl performing intimate acts upon him as he drove. The abuse stopped when she left the school to study the violin abroad.
When she returned aged 18, she paid a visit to the Brewers’ house during which they discussed Mrs Brewer’s recent breast reduction.
Mrs Andrade recalled: ‘So she took off her top, and she said “What do you think?” and I said “They look great” and she said “Touch them, do they feel natural?’’’Another girl at the music school told how Mr Brewer had convinced her that he was in love with her while groping her
Mrs Brewer then revealed she knew about her husband’s alleged affair with her and told the teenager she ‘owed her’.
‘She knew everything that had happened and she actually told me she had always loved me and that I owed her, basically,’ she said. ‘She wanted to have sex with me.’
She was made to go upstairs where Mrs Brewer sexually assaulted her: ‘She was quite brutal with me, partly because she really, really, wanted me to feel something.’
It was after this that Mrs Andrade claimed she was raped by Mr Brewer, encouraged by his wife. She said Mrs Brewer ‘wanted Mike to do to me what he had done behind her back with me’ while she watched.
While the jury convicted Mrs Brewer of assaulting Frances on this occasion, she and her husband were cleared of charges relating to the alleged rape. In court, Mrs Andrade’s case was bolstered by evidence from another ex-pupil.
The then-head girl told how, when she was 17, Mr Brewer convinced her he was in love with her while groping her in his office and practice rooms. The relationship came to an end when the then headmaster, Reverend Peter Hullah, almost walked in on them with her topless.
He confronted Mr Brewer, who admitted the relationship.
Rather than be sacked, the director of music was allowed to resign on the grounds of ill health in 1994.
And so it was that Mr Brewer’s career was not blighted, but actually blossomed.
The year after leaving Chetham’s, he was awarded an OBE for services to education. Offers of work poured in, not only with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, which he founded, but with other choirs and schools around the world. Such was his profile that in 2008 he landed a role on the BBC’s show Last Choir Standing.
Having split from his wife in the mid-1990s he remarried divorced teacher Sandra Wakeling in 2005 and settled in Birmingham.
His arrest came out of the blue, forcing his suspension from his post with the national youth choir and later his early retirement.
Chetham’s: Now ten ex-teachers under spotlight
1 Mar 2013
Historic sex abuse investigation widens as Former pupil claims Michael Brewer case ‘is just tip of the iceberg’
The probe into historic sex abuse at Chetham’s School of Music has widened again with at least ten former teachers now under investigation, the M.E.N. can reveal.
All taught at the prestigious music school either as permanent members of staff or freelance tutors with some also working at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Detectives have now begun interviewing alleged victims, believed to number more than ten and living both in Britain and abroad.
The M.E.N. understands safeguarding action is also being taken over concerns some tutors alleged to have carried out abuse are still teaching music to youngsters in other locations.
Nearly all of the abuse is alleged to have taken place at Chetham’s – however it is believed some took place when complainants were pupils at the RNCM.
The allegations came to light after the trial of former Chetham’s choirmaster Michael Brewer, convicted earlier this year of indecent assault in the 1970s and 1980s.
His victim, Frances Andrade, killed herself after giving evidence against him at Manchester Crown Court.
A second music teacher, Wen Zhou Li, a 57-year-old violin tutor from Cheshire who has worked at both Chetham’s and the RNCM, was also been arrested on suspicion of rape before being released on bail. No charges have been brought and Mr Li strenuously denies the allegations.
The news comes as more than 1,000 former Chetham’s pupils and professional musicians signed a petition calling for an independent inquiry into sexual abuse at the school and other private music conservatoires.
The petition’s organiser, former Chetham’s pupil and professional pianist Ian Pace, says he believes the Brewer trial is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Mr Pace, now based in London, said: “There has been a huge groundswell of support for the petition from ex-Chetham’s pupils from all areas, including people who have been there very recently.
“A lot of parents have also supported it, along with musicians of all different types, plus people working in education and other musical organisations.
“The number of people contacting me to talk about these issues is also significant.
“These are problems which have gone unaddressed for too long, like the nature of teacher-pupil relationships and abuse, whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional, which causes long-term damage.
“Unfortunately I think what came out at the Michael Brewer trial is just the tip of the iceberg.”
A spokeswoman for the RNCM declined to comment.