175 Years of RCS – The Past is Prologue
Stuart Harris-Logan is the Keeper of Archives and Collections at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As such he effectively created this highly rated role himself, though he modestly accepts that the then Principal and Head of Information Services gave him the space to create the role started 13 years ago. Before that he was a professional contemporary dancer trained at the Paris Conservatoire. He is also well educated at Glasgow University with an undergraduate degree in Classics and English Literature and a research MPhil in Scottish Gaelic and Celtic.
Stuart gave the Club an excellent and coherent historic thread focussing on the musical developments since the formation of the Glasgow Athenaeum as a private members club and its subsequent decision to establish an entity to provide education for people of all backgrounds and of both sexes in modern languages, logic, mathematics and the arts, this institution to be an ornament to the city. The opening soirée in December 1847 was graced by Charles Dickens.
Her traced the move to music helped by a procession of eminent figures with international backgrounds starting with Ralph Waldo Emerson leading to Chopin’s best last concert in Hutchison’s Hospital, the custom built Atheaeum in the 1880s, the role of the Leipzig educated Alan McBeth, Henri Verbrugghen’s dual position as leader of the Scottish Orchestra and Head of Strings at the Athenaeum, the appointment of Graz-born Emma
Ritter Bondy as professor of piano, the first female professor in UK and the all-pervading influence of Franz Liszt.
This led to the emergence of Denniston-born Frederick Lamont, allegedly the best piano teacher of all time who helped to popularise the works of Beethoven. He was followed by series of eminent and influential performers and teachers in William Whitaker who introduced many to Bach, Eric Chisholm widened the international presence with awareness of Hindemith, Bella Bartok and Prokofiev, recognition by Sibelius commemorated with an annual prize, Ernest Bullock whose fanfares were notable and finally Motherwell-born and Glasgow-educated Alexander Gibson, the founder of Scottish Opera and creator of Britain’s first purpose-built opera school named after him.
Stuart then linked this with the emergence of the drama school and the story of John Cairney who was the first student to cross the threshold despite protesters frightening other students with their cries of “theatre is of the devil” and the Glasgow dinner with Henry Irvine, forerunner of Dracula as written by his business manager Bram Stoker. He paralleled the founding of the Citizens’ Theatre whose first plays were performed in the Athenaeum and listed a number of eminent drama students including Mary Marquis, David Tennant, James McAvoy, Ncuti “Dr Who” Chutwa and many others.
He closed by making the point that the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the name having been changed from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with the introduction of modern ballet, is a world-leading international conservatoire with a raft of world-famous graduates of whom Scotland should indeed be proud.