THE principal of the Glasgow College of music is the sixth son of Norman Macbeth, R.S.A., and was born at Greenock, 13th March, 1856. While he was a child his father removed to Edinburgh for the facilities of portrait painting, and the boy spent his early years there in an artistic environment. He was finishing his education at Neuwied in Germany when the Franco-Prussian War broke out. The place is on the Rhine, and he has a vivid memory of the terror at the report that the French were coming, when the inhabitants fled in the darkness of the night. It was with difficulty that, on his return to Scotland, he persuaded his family to let him study for the profession of music. After studying under Robert Davidson and Otto Schweizer he went again to Germany, and after a year with Reinecke at the Leipzig Conservatorium, he placed himself under E. F. Richter for theory, Wenzl for pianoforte, and Jadassohn for composition. He became also a member of the Sing academie, conducted by Alfred Richter, and gained much experience there as a conductor and accompanist.
    On returning to Scotland Mr. Macbeth settled in Glasgow, where from 1880 to 1887 he acted as conductor of the Glasgow Choral Union. Under his leadership the Union added many important and difficult modern works to its repertoire. He also became organist of Woodside Church, and organised there the first boy choir of a Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Afterwards, as organist for nine years to St. George's-in-the-Fields, he made the evening musical services a feature, and with the voluntary choir produced such works as "The Messiah" and "The Holy City." He also found time for a considerable amount of composition. His charming "Intermezzo," played again and again at the Glasgow Orchestral Concerts, attained an immense popularity; many fine songs stand to his credit; and his cantata, "The Land of Glory," gained the prize of the Glasgow Society of Musicians.
    In 1890, when the Directors of Glasgow Athenaeum resolved to establish a school of music, they appointed Mr. Macbeth its Principal. They were prepared to begin with fifty pupils, but largely through his energy the school was opened with forty teachers and nearly nine hundred students. Under his management it became the largest and best equipped institution for the acquirement of a musical education out of London, and the practical success of its teaching, demonstrated at the concerts and operas given in the Athenaeum, always drew crowded audiences. In 1902 he left the Athenaeum in order to found the Glasgow College of Music, of which he is now Principal. During each of the winters since he has given one week's performances of opera in the Grand Theatre, out of the proceeds of which he has been able to hand over to charitable objects a total sum of about £1,000. He also holds the post of organist and choirmaster in St. Matthew's Church.

Back to Index of Glasgow Men (1909)