Hamish MacCunn’s father, James MacCunn was a ship owner.
Hamish MacCunn showed an early aptitude for music and on the opening of the Royal College of Music in 1883, won a scholarship for composition.
He was a pupil there of Sir Hubert Parry and resigned his scholarship in 1886.
An overture was given at the Crystal Palace in October 1885, but it was not until 1887 that his name became widely known from the success of his overture ‘Land of the Mountain and Flood,’ produced at the Crystal Palace.
It was at once evident that the young composer had a strongly individual note of his own, and in quick succession other orchestral works were brought forward, for the most part at the Crystal Palace, where his first cantata ‘Lord Ullin’s Daughter,’ was given on February 18, 1888.
In that year he was commissioned to write a cantata for the Glasgow Choral Union; this was ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ given at Glasgow, December 18, 1888 and at the Crystal Palace February 16, 1889.
‘Bonny Kilmeny’ hd been given at one of Paterson’s concerts in Edinburgh three days before; and in 1888 he was appointed a professor at the Royal College, a position he held until 1894.
A series of orchestral concerts were given in the same year in the studio of John Pettie, R.A., whose daughter he married in 1889.
In 1894 his opera, ‘Jeanie Deans,’ was produced by the royal Carl Rosa Company in Edinburgh, and performed in London by the same company, after much success throughout the provinces, on January 22, 1896.
He was for some years connected with this company as conductor, and had much experience in operatic and other conducting.
He directed the production in English of many of the later works of Wagner, including ‘Tristan’ and ‘Siefgried,’ as well as the stock repertory.
After the death of Sullivan, during the last seasons of the Savoy Theater as a home of English light opera, he conducted the run of ‘Merrie England’ and ‘A Princess of Kensington.’
His compositions show a strongly national coloring, and certain sides of Scottish music, particularly those which deal with the more intimate and tender emotions, had scarcely been brought into the world of artistic or ‘composed’ music until his time.
Some of his works include:
- Jeanie Deans – (libretto by Joseph Bennet), in four acts, Lyceum Theater, Edinburgh November 15, 1894
- Diarmid – grand opera in four acts, libretto by the Duke of Argyl (then Marquis of Lorne), Covent Garden Theater, October 23, 1897
- The Masque of Ware and Peace – (libretto by Louis N Parker), given at a single special performance for the benefit of the Household Troops, Her Majesty’s Theater February 13, 1900
- The Golden Girl – musical comedy, written by Captain Basil Hood, produced at the Prince of Wale’s Theater, Birmingham August 5, 1905
- Lord Ullin’s Daughter – Crystal Palace February 18, 1888
- The Lay of the Last Minstrel – with soli, Glasgow Choral Union, Deceimber 18, 1888, Crystal Palace February 16, 1889
- Bonny Kilmeny – with soli, Paterson’s Concerts, Edinburgh December 15, 1888 and at the Crystal Palace Mary 8, 1889
- The Cameronian’s Dream – with baritone solo, Paterson’s Concerts, Edinburgh January 27, 1890, Crystal Palace December 6, 1890
- Queen Hynde of Caledon – sith soli, Glasgow Choral Union January 28, 1892, Crystal Palace March 5, 1892
- The Death of Parcy Reed – for male chorus and orchestra
- The Wreck of the Hesperas – produced with pictorial illustrations at the Coliseum Theater August 28, 1905
- Cior Mhor – Crystal Palace October 27, 1885
- The Land of the Mountain and Flood – Crystal Palace November 5, 1867
- The Ship o’ the Fiend – Henschel Concerts February 21, 1888, Crystal Palace Aprile 21, 1888
- The Dowie Dew o’ Yarrow – Crystal Palace October 13, 1888
- Highland Memories – three descriptive pieces, Crystal Palace March 13, 1897, Philharmonic May 20, 1897
- Psalm VIII for chorus and organ, Glasgow Exhibition of 1901
- Nine part-songs
- Six original pieces
- Scotch Dances for piano solo
- Three pieces for violoncello and piano