Born: November 12, 1982; Died: June 30, 2012.
Sam Hutchings, who has died tragically at the age of 29, was a wonderfully gifted musician and a treasured colleague. Educated at the Edinburgh Academy, where he studied piano with Heida Hallgrimsson, he went on to gain a first-class honours in music at Christ Church, Oxford.
On his return to Edinburgh in summer 2003 he became involved in the Edinburgh International Festival at very short (12 hours') notice as the offstage pianist for Cillian Murphy to mime to in Peter Stein's production of Chekhov's Seagull. As was always the case he was brilliant and unobtrusive, took it all in his stride and everyone fell in love with him.
He then went on to study for a diploma in piano accompaniment at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where he later worked as an accompanist and general assessor for the Junior Conservatoire.
His association with the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) continued unbroken thereafter. As Queen's Hall concerts manager from 2004-2011, he was responsible for looking after artists involved in around 150 concerts.
He became rehearsal pianist to the Edinburgh Festival Chorus (EFC) in 2006, forming a celebrated double act in 2007 with EFC chorusmaster Christopher Bell, which he reprised frequently for the National Youth Choir of Scotland.
In June this year he led EIF's ground-breaking Love in a Library project both as musical director and pianist. He was very closely associated with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), fulfilling the role of rehearsal pianist for the RSNO Chorus and RSNO Junior Chorus as well as occasionally performing as an orchestral pianist with the RSNO itself.
He was very self-effacing, something which disguised the fact that he could sight-read with amazing facility and never seemed to find anything technically challenging. His attention to detail was remarkable (frequently scrutinising contemporary scores to check for errors and inconsistencies) and his technical skill sometimes startling – with NYCoS recently he acted as rehearsal pianist for music by Richard Rodney Bennett, seamlessly and effectively telescoping music for two pianists.
He was a particularly sensitive accompanist to singers. Following a masterclass at the Edinburgh International Festival, he was invited to become a staff pianist at Malcolm Martineau's Oxenfoord International Summer School. He was involved in many memorable song recitals including most recently at the Lammermuir Festival, Perth Concert Hall and Music at Paxton.
He also developed a close association with Live Music Now (LMN), whose musicians are accepted not only on the basis of their musical talent, but also of their personalities and abilities to communicate with a wide range of people throughout different communities. Firstly in a duo with Anna Klara Georgsdottir, and more recently with Emma Versteeg, he contributed greatly to LMN's work.
Together they performed for many different audiences who would otherwise have been unable to experience high-quality live music. The genuine warmth he extended quietly to people was as much appreciated as his music-making. Concert venues ranged from care homes to public venues, such as the National Gallery of Scotland, with the last one being as part of LMN's Emerging Artists series at the Usher Hall
A key member of Daniel's Beard, a Glasgow-based chamber group, his patience and sensitivity made him the ideal chamber music partner. He participated in the premiere recording of Thomas Wilson's Complementi as well as taking part in memorable performances of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, Janacek's Concertino and Bartok's Contrasts – fiendish piano parts, which he met with a wry chuckle and "oh well...it should be fine", which, of course, it always was.
Those of us who knew and worked with Sam realised that behind the almost cherubic expression there lurked a splendidly impish sense of humour. Who else would have had an email address made up of a composer and his date of birth? Especially when that composer was Scriabin – a man who one feels the Edinburgh Academy might not entirely have approved of.
Above all, he was a joy to be with – a truly wonderful colleague and great company when off duty. One only has to look at the expressions of disbelieving grief his sudden death has elicited to realise the huge impact this gentle, shy man had on those he touched.
Music in Scotland will have to live with the pain of Sam Hutchings' absence. He was just so special.
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