The wife of former Stevenage Mayor, Howard Burrell, has paid tribute to her late husband.

Jennifer Higgins referred to his life as “hugely full and varied”.

Howard Burrell, who was born in Hackney in 1944, was not only a successful councillor but also a teacher, composer and conductor.

Jennifer and Howard had three children, Sarah, Ed and Charlie who were all brought up in Stevenage.

Jennifer met Howard when auditioning for a production of ‘Carmen’ with his company, Opera East, in 1984.

She said: “Howard preferred someone else for the role, but fortunately the director knew my work and persuaded him otherwise”.

The third child of Salvation Army Officers, Howard read music at Queen’s University, Belfast followed by a master’s degree at Nottingham University.

She continued: “He started teaching at Norwich City College in the late 60’s where he developed the music department and also ran evening classes for plumbers and bricklayers!

“His next move was to the Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire) where Norman Lindop offered him a role to develop extra-curricular music.

"Always ambitious, Howard took this much further, establishing a Music Department with a focus on electronic music, whilst all the time composing, conducting and providing a performance platform for others.

“He was a talented composer, though not a great keyboard player, so his music was formed and retained in his head until he could commit it to paper.

"His skilful arrangements of full opera scores often made his touring opera orchestra of just fifteen players sound like the Covent Garden Orchestra!”

Professor Burrell had a lifelong interest in politics and the Labour Party, serving three terms as a councillor for Chells.

Jennifer continued: “He saw his role as a local councillor as an opportunity to meet with his constituents, listen to their concerns and to take action to ensure that these were addressed.

"He was just so easy to talk to and always willing to take time to listen.

"He was hugely honoured to be asked to step up to the role of the Mayor, even though this came rather sooner than he expected!

"He embraced the opportunity to meet more widely with the residents of Stevenage and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Mayors from other Burroughs in the county, many of whom remain good friends”.

Howard had four children, three sons and one daughter, Sarah, who continues his legacy as a musician.

Jennifer added: “He was so proud of them all”.

Howard’s funeral will take place at St Andrew and St George’s Church, St George’s Way, Stevenage at noon on Tuesday October 11th.

The Committal will take place at Harwood Park after the service.

This will be followed by a celebration of Howard’s life at Chesfield Downs Golf and Country Club, Graveley.

Jennifer and her family have extended an invitation for anyone who wishes to join for "any or all" of the funeral arrangements.

Donations in memory of Mr Burrell can be made to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), at

Donations can also be made to Help Musicians at