Concert hall director;
Born: June 23, 1934; Died: October 18, 2012.
Cameron McNicol, who has died aged 78, was a schoolboy from an Alexandria tenement once destined to become a painter and decorator. Expected to join the family decorating firm, he had his mother to thank for changing the course of his life with spectacular results.
Her determination that he should do something different set him on a musical path that led to him rubbing shoulders with royalty, Hollywood stars and world statesmen as he ran the show at two of Britain's most prestigious concert venues – The Royal Albert Hall and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, his involvement with the latter putting him at the heart of the city's cultural renaissance.
It was a remarkable achievement for a youngster from relatively humble roots whose love of music stemmed from choral singing and the lessons that followed his parents' purchase of a piano, at the insistence of his mother. By the time he left Vale of Leven Academy music was to be the main focus of his professional life.
He attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and went on to become a music teacher at Glasgow High School, his choirs regularly and successfully competing at the city's St Andrew's Halls.
Little did he know then that the site of that venue was to be the magnet that would pull him back to Glasgow decades later.
The world-renowned halls were destroyed by fire in 1962 and for almost 30 years the city stood without a dedicated concert hall. When it finally did create a splendid new replacement, just in time to celebrate Glasgow's year as European City of Culture in 1990, he was the man at the helm as its inaugural director.
In the interim he criss-crossed the country in a series of posts that culminated in him managing one of the world's best-known performance venues.
Having taught in Glasgow for five years, he moved to Brighton Technical College as a music lecturer. After four years there he headed to Twickenham College of Technology, where he was principal lecturer in the arts.
And when the college closed 11 years later he returned to Scotland, in 1977, as head of the new Lochgelly Centre in Fife. From there he went to Hull to become manager of the Francis Reckitt Centre before taking on the role first as deputy and then general manager of London's Royal Albert Hall.
He spent seven years there in the 1980s, during which one of his greatest challenges was the maintenance of such an old and crumbling building. Whilst there he promoted Eric Clapton, among others, and oversaw tennis, ice-skating and ballroom dancing championships as well as the Miss World contests and The Proms.
Outgoing and sociable, with an ability to mix in all circles, he was unfazed by celebrity or royalty and met countless public figures including the Queen and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
But he retained fond memories of Glasgow's old St Andrew's Halls, by then reduced to a brownfield site at the top of Buchanan Street, and when he saw plans for the proposed new concert hall there he found them tremendously exciting.
"I remember hearing Gigli sing and Solomon playing the piano at the old hall. Every Saturday night you could go along and hear a great international soloist," he recalled.
He had also performed there as a student and was struck by the remarkable acoustics as he played the double bass: "For the first time I was so aware of my own playing. It was quite staggering."
And by 1989 he was back in Glasgow, watching over its phoenix-like rise from the ashes from his office nearby, keen to discover what the acoustics would be like in the long overdue new venue. They had a startling clarity, he later declared.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (GRCH) opened in 1990, billed as Glasgow's Hall for Glasgow's People. Since then it has hosted an enormous range of music events, exhibitions and conferences, now staging 400 concerts and more than 1000 corporate events each year.
Mr McNicol brought many top international artists to the GRCH, including the trio of operatic divas Montserrat Caballe, Jessye Norman and Cecilia Bartoli. One of the early performers was the Berlin Philharmonic and the last, during his tenure, was the Vienna Philharmonic.
But the complex, which he was determined would be used to the full, also catered for jazz, folk and rock fans, as well as more middle-of-the road music tastes, and entertained children with favourites such as The Singing Kettle and Mr Boom. He also commissioned both musical pieces and publications including A Hundred Years of the Scottish Motor Industry, part of a series on Scotland's industrial heritage.
A particular coup was the appearance of Bob Hope, whom he lured to Glasgow in 1994. Hope was in London topping the bill at a concert marking the 50th anniversary of the D Day Landings and also appeared at the Albert Hall. A golfing addict, he agreed to one further date – an appearance at the GRCH preceded by a couple of days at Gleneagles.
He hadn't played Glasgow since the 1950s when one of those responsible for his appearance was Cameron McNicol, then a student involved in organising the charity rag week. Contacted at Gleneagles, Hope agreed to appear at the rag week ball in the City Chambers, performing 90-minute solo spot.
Conductor Iain Sutherland, who remained a friend since meeting Mr McNicol in those days in RSAMD's class of 1953, said of his move back to Glasgow: "I remember standing in his temporary office overlooking the massive hole in the ground which was to become Glasgow's new concert hall, with the plans spread out before us on his desk. He pointed to a spot backstage and said that was where the conductor's suite would be, and with a huge grin, remembering how I always enjoyed a chilled glass of champagne after my concerts said 'and I'll make sure it has a fridge.'"
Mr McNicol, who retired in 1996 to live in Dorset, where he died, is survived by his second wife Susan and their son Will, his three daughters from a previous marriage, Helen, Claire and Fiona, and seven grandchildren.
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