Glasgow born Edward (Eddie) McGuire studied with James Iliff (RAM 1966-70) and with Ingvar Lidholm in Stockholm. He received a British Composers Award (2003), Creative Scotland Award (2004) and has been featured composer at several international festivals.
What drew you to a career in music?
I trace becoming a composer to hearing – from age 4 to 12 – the male-voice choir in which my father sung bass rehearsing in our family house. My mother got me a guitar and piano age 9, starting me composing as a hobby; I gained experience playing flute in orchestral summer courses and my composition portfolio got me into the RAM age 18. My first commission – from James Durrant in 1972 – was a success and started my composing career.
How would you describe your work?
I have always spoken in my own voice, returning to harmonies and rhythms that first thrilled me. Because of the family origins I mentioned, direct communication of emotions is paramount. 20th century discoveries, including minimalism, are important to me as is traditional folk music involvement.
What positive and negative aspects have you found lockdown has had on your work?
Current events led to cancellation of premieres of my Cello Concerto and Owen Murray recording my Accordion Concerto. A premiere of Nocturne and Sunrise (going against the tide with optimism!) for 5 guitars may still happen in July in Nuremberg. I’m catching up with backlogs of corrections and typing old scores.
Listen to an interview with Eddie on the SMC’s Exposed Melodies Podcast, recorded in 2012.
A selection of CDs featuring Eddie’s music are available to buy on the Delphian website.
Listen to some of Eddie’s work:
These, and many of Eddie’s other scores are available to buy on the SMC online shop.
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Glasgow born Edward (Eddie) McGuire studied with James Iliff (RAM 1966-70) and with Ingvar Lidholm in Stockholm. He received a British Composers Award (2003), Creative Scotland Award (2004) and has been featured composer at several international festivals. The BBCSSO Proms performance of Calgacus was selected for BBC Music Magazine’s CD ‘The Very Best of the BBC Orchestras’ (1997). Commissions and broadcasts have included those from St Magnus Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Lorient Festival, Glasgow Festival Strings, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Notable successes are his 3 act ballet Peter Pan (Scottish Ballet; Hong Kong Ballet), opera The Loving of Etain (with librettist Marianne Carey) and concertos for guitar, trombone, violin, viola and bass. He writes for and plays with The Whistlebinkies and Chinese group Harmony Ensemble. Recent works include Let the Games Begin for Glasgow Chamber Choir, Cowal Colours for Hoot and Dialogue for Philip Sawyer and Andrea Kuypers. In 2015 his Symphonies of Galaxies was premiered at University of St Andrews by its New Music Ensemble – a collaborative venture with its Department of Astronomy and Physics. 2016 sees the premiere of Botanic Gardens for Grimoire (4 players at 2 pianos). Both CD collections of his music (on Delphian Records) have achieved ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Gramophone Magazine – Eddie McGuire: Music for Flute, Guitar and Piano (2006) and Entangled Fortunes (2015, performed by Red Note ensemble).
My career as a British composer was well grounded and inspired by my years at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1966 to 1970 (studying with James Iliff and privileged to write Nine Decades for his 90th birthday early in 2013) and the State Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1971 with Ingvar Lidholm (I met him again in 2011 at his 90th birthday concert in Stockholm). I was born in Glasgow in 1948, where I now work and where I attended the Junior Department of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. My flute teacher there was the late David Nicholson and I continued flute as a second study at the RAM with Derek Honner. While a student there I was gratified to have won the Edward Hecht Prize and the National Young Composers’ Competition (held at University of Liverpool in March 1969). As a valuable contrast to home-based composing, my flute playing has taken me all over Britain and as far as China and the USA. Since 1973 I have played it with The Whistlebinkies (see www.whistlebinkies.co.uk) and I have composed for the group several times – including having them at the centre of my grand finale for the Lorient Festival in 1997 scored for orchestra, male voice choir, pipe bands and soloists from Brittany, Wales, Isle of Man, Scotland, Ireland, Galecia and Cornwall. The Whistlebinkies’ 1991 tour of China led to my joining – and writing for – the Chinese musicians of the Harmony Ensemble in which I play bamboo flute (di-zi).
Thanks to Glasgow University’s McEwen Bequest, my career was kick-started by commissions premiered there. These included my first – from James Durrant in 1972 – Martyr (in memory of Joe McCann), followed by Liberation (1975) and Wind Octet (1980). Larger scale works ensued – like Calgacus (its 1997 Proms performance with the BBCSSO and Robert Wallace on Highland Bagpipes was chosen for the BBC Music Magazine cover-mount CD The Very Best of the BBC Orchestras); operas to librettos by Marianne Carey – a 3-act opera The Loving of Etain (Paragon Opera, 1990) and Cake-Talk (for the RSNO and 100-strong RSNO Junior Chorus, 1996); and a 3-act ballet Peter Pan performed more than 120 times by Scottish Ballet and Hong Kong Ballet between 1989 and 1996. I have been gratified to compose new pieces for such great youth orchestras as the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland (A Glasgow Symphony), the RSAMD Junior Orchestra (Scottish Dances on Original Themes), Glasgow Schools Orchestra with Alice Durrant (Double Bass Concerto), Edinburgh Youth Orchestra (Prazdnik with Evelyn Glennie on marimba) and County of Avon String Orchestra (Divertimento for May Day): and to experience enthusiasm of amateur orchestras such as The Meadows Chamber Orchestra (A Meadows Muse), Glasgow Chamber Orchestra (The Caledonian Muse), Highland Chamber Orchestra (Dancing on a Ground) and Glasgow Wind Band (Mistral).
My enthusiasm for voices came to fruition in such works as The Pipes of Peace for solo bagpipes (again performed by Robert Wallace) with the 80-strong RSNO Chorus for their 1986 tour of Israel and Palestine and repeated at the Musica Nova festival; Three Chorales of Struggle for Cadenza Choir; Memory for Cappella Nova and works for NYCOS, Scottish Voices and the John Currie Singers. I have been honoured to have been able to write songs and song cycles for soloist such as Jane Manning, Joan Busby, Alison Smart, Stuart Buchanan, Jamie MacDougall, Irene Drummond and Louise MacDonald.
Early on, my confidence in composing for strings was boosted by Rant being chosen as test piece for the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition (1978) and String Quartet for the 40th anniversary Barbican Gala of the SPNM (thrillingly, this was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 by the Arditti Quartet). The 1972 success of Martyr led to Divertimento for 20 Violas and Viola Concerto (for the 1998 International Viola Congress). A body of work for guitar, including a Guitar Concerto, (largely commissioned by Phillip Thorne) led to my being Featured Composer at the 1996 Bath International Guitar Festival. I was proud to receive a similar accolade at the 1993 Park Lane Series at the Purcell Room and at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival (my knowledge of the harp had been developed by having composed for the renowned harpist and teacher Sanchia Pielou in the context of the New Music Group of Scotland under Edward Harper. I received several lessons on the small harp (clarsach) from her in 1977 and wrote Harp Octet in 1992 commissioned in her honour by her students on her retirement.
A British Composers Award (2003) and Creative Scotland Award 2004 were followed by my CD ‘Eddie McGuire – Music for Flute, Guitar and Piano’ on Delphian Records (see the website www.delphianrecords.co.uk) becoming Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine Awards Issue in 2006. A follow up CD ‘Entangled Fortunes’ of my ensemble works performed by Red Note Ensemble on the same label also achieved an ‘Editor’s Choice’ in the magazine in 2015. My wind band music has been championed and recorded by Nigel Boddice and his colleagues and includes works for symphonic wind orchestra such as Mistral and Sirocco.
In recent years I have enjoyed greatly working with such fine ensembles as Paragon ( in a piece dedicated to Martin Luther King Junior, Dangerous Orations), Sax Ecosse (Hidden Dialects), Illuminati Wind Quartet (Winds at Sea), Kyle Horch’s saxophone ensemble Flotilla (Remembrance), Mr McFall’s Chamber (Nocturnes), the Da Vinci Trio (Elegy) and the Edinburgh Quartet with Jessica Beeston, viola (The Silent Traveller Returns) and with them with John Kenny (trombone) and Catriona McKay (Harp) in a brilliant recording of my Guest Sextet. And through the Daniel’s Beard ensemble, performances of several of my works have taken place at Glasgow’s West End Festival. They produced a CD which, unusually, featured the premiere of a Horn Trio composed 45 years earlier while I was playing on the Glasgow Schools Orchestra summer course at Toward Castle in 1966, a piece requested by fellow student Tom Barrie and encouraged by horn student Robert Cook. A full account of my early days of composing music can be heard in a podcast recording in which I was interviewed by Chris Glasgow for the Scottish Music Centre in July 2011.
An unusual commission came from the BBC Scottish Symphony Club. To mark their 30th year and the 75th anniversary of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra they asked me to write a fresh encore for the orchestra. What resulted was a choice of three encores which I formed into a dance suite (Encores en Suite) suitable for normal concert performance – duly premiered on the In Tune programme on BBC Radio 3 in October 2010.
It was a great privilege to find myself working on a commission from the Trade Union Movement to compose a celebratory suite (Work-In at UCS: A Celebration Suite) for the 40th anniversary of the work-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders of 1971, premiered on October 1st 2011 by The Whistlebinkies, Alba Brass and Sax Ecosse. The occupation was starting just as I returned back home that year from 5 years of composition studies in London and Sweden. I attended meetings and concerts in support and composed Music for Saxophones in honour of the event, a score of which was presented to Jimmy Reid in 1971.
My early childhood fascination with astronomy came full circle when I was commissioned by the School of Astronomy and Physics at St Andrew’s University to compose Symphonies of Galaxies to celebrate the MaNGA project in the ‘Year of Light’ 2015. This was premiered by the University’s New Music Ensemble conducted by Bede Williams. Shortly after this I renewed my work with Richard Deering and composed Botanic Gardens for his 4 players at 2 pianos ensemble ‘Grimoire’ – premiered at the University of Glasgow in 2016.
Over 4 decades on, such social engagement continues and includes volunteering as elected chairman of the Scotland and Northern Ireland Region of the Musicians Union, being a delegate to Glasgow Trades Union Council and writing for ‘Workers’ magazine. Walking the Scottish hills (and the streets of Glasgow) keeps me fit!
~ Eddie McGuire, February 5th 2016