Kenilworth farewell for musical Ilona

Ilona Colini
Ilona Colini

Tributes have been paid to a “stalwart” Kenilworth music teacher who never stopped working for her students following a lifetime of royal accolades.

Ilona Colini passed away on November 24 and friends came out to mourn her passing at her funeral service at St Nicholas church.

The lifelong music lover and professional performer was born in Coventry and lived in Kenilworth for most of her life. She was described by her friends as a “stalwart in the community” who is already sorely missed.

Married to the late Larry Cosgrave, Ilona was described as a woman who “never stopped working” and who had a very long life in music.

Ilona began her studies at the now Birmingham Conservatoire, studying singing with the great British tenor Frank Mullings, acting with Mr Munten and theory with Huskissen Stubbington.

From the Conservatoire she obtained the Associate and Licentiate diplomas of Trinity College London.

She then studied at the Miriam Licette school in London, completing the diplomas with a fellowship.

Moving on to Italy and beginning a singing career, she was heard by the director of world famous opera house, La Scala Milan, who invited her to audition as a soloist. But she had already signed a contract with British opera company, the Carl Rosa, which unfortunately went into liquidation.

Ilona then formed a group of solo singers and instrumentalists, among them the lead clarinettist of the Toronto symphony orchestra, Brian Flaherty and together they presented performances for which they had much acclaim.

Italy honoured her with the World Culture Prize for Arts, Letters and Sciences and she was presented with the Statue of Victory and made Personality of the Year.

These were Royal Associations too and she was presented to the Queen at St James Palace for her services to music , as well as a gala dinner at the Guildhall hosted by Prince Philip, where she was presented to Prince Edward.

She had a very long and happy relationship with the British Federation of Music Festivals and was very proud to be vice chairman of the Chadsmoor Hednesford and district festival. For many years she was an examiner travellingthe globe and to master classes in opera.

She taught in schools, but her greatest joy and achievement were with her private pupils in her Kenilworth home and at the Wigmore Studio in London. Her proud boast being that she never had a failure and many students went on to become teachers or performers in singing. She taught almost to the end with her last diploma candidate passing with honours just before Easter this year.