A tribute concert in honour of Hawick’s great but forgotten composer Sir John Blackwood McEwen (1868-1948) will be performed at Tower Mill at the Heart of Hawick on Sunday, January 27, at 2.30pm.
The afternoon recital, organised by Hawick Music Live!, will feature violinist Andrew Sherwood, Professor of Violin at London’s Trinity Music College, and the former Head of Music at Hawick High School Jim Letham on piano, and a visit from Dr Alasdair Mitchell of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who is the leading authority on McEwen’s music. The programme will include music by Mozart, and also rarely-played pieces composed by the Hawick born musician and teacher, which close the McEwen exhibition currently running in the Heritage Hub, Hawick.
Hawick Live’s Gordon Macdonald said: “This is, as far as we know, the only exhibition ever organised as a tribute to Sir John Blackwood McEwen, and we trust it will stimulate a renewed appreciation of his music.”
McEwen was born in East Bank United Presbyterian – now Trinity –Church manse on April 13, 1868, and rose in 1895 to become professor of pianoforte, harmony and composition at the Athenaeum School of Music – now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – in Glasgow, and later professor of harmony and composition, and principal, of London’s Royal Academy of Music. In 1931 he was honoured with a knighthood.
Even though he spent most of his working life in London, he was recognised during his lifetime as one of Scotland’s leading composers, and its traditional folk music is often expressed in his music, such as Three Border Ballads, Hills o’ Heather, and the Solway symphony. McEwen’s chamber music, for which he was most famous, included violin and piano sonatas, and 13 string quartets.
On his 80th birthday, former Hawick provost George Fraser said: “We salute Scotland’s greatest living composer, and our pleasure in doing so is enhanced by the knowledge that you are, in truth, a Borderer and ‘one of us’.”