Biography of Sir John Blackwood McEwen
Sir John Blackwood McEwen
Sir John Blackwood McEwen (1868-1948) was a University of Glasgow graduate who became an influential teacher and a renowned composer of classical music. McEwen was knighted in 1931 and was awarded an honorary LLD by the University in 1933.
Born in Hawick, McEwen graduated with an MA from the University in 1888 and then studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1895 he was appointed Choirmaster of South Parish Church in Greenock, and taught at the Athenaeum School of Music in Glasgow. In 1898 he returned to the Royal Academy of Music as Professor of Harmony and Composition and was Principal there from 1924 until 1936. He is recognised as one of the leading Scottish composers of the 20th century, perhaps best known for his famous work the Solway Symphony.
In 1947 McEwan donated a large number of his manuscripts to the University of Glasgow and founded the McEwen Bequest to promote the performance of chamber music and encourage the performance of music by composers of Scottish birth and descent. Other composers resident in Scotland for a substantial period have also benefited from the fund. In fulfilment of the terms of the bequest the University Court commissions annually a piece of chamber music for not more than five players and every three years a work for larger forces.
The University’s McEwen Collection is in two parts. The original acquisition from 1947 consists of some 150 volumes (including manuscript scores and parts). A large proportion of this material is made up of instrumental and chamber music, but there are also a number of songs, part-songs and some orchestral music. This material was supplemented in 1981 by the acquisition of a further 60 items, comprising mainly of drafts, fragments and sketches.