The invention of the gramophone made possible the availability of ‘serious’ music to a mass audience, previously a pleasure restricted to the well-to do and ‘connected’ people who could attend concerts. In the early part of the twentieth century it was a point of dispute whether music could be truly appreciated by those who had not been trained in its structure. Liverpool-born Stewart Macpherson, often referred to as the Father of Musical Appreciation, was a key figure in shifting music education away from the acquirement of technical proficiency towards the cultivation of taste.
He was born on 29th March 1865, the son of Henry Charles Macpherson and his wife Elizabeth, who lived at 329 West Derby Road L6 (now demolished). He was baptised Charles Stewart Macpherson, the records showing that his father was a ‘confectioner’. (His father seemed to move fleetingly between occupations being described in censuses as estate agent (1871), timber merchant (1881) and private secretary (1891). The family did not remain in Liverpool for long after his birth, living in Lambeth by 1871.
He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and in 1887 joined their staff teaching composition. Although he composed various pieces he is primarily remembered as a music educator who published a considerable body of work on various aspects of composition and musical appreciation. He founded the Music Teachers’ Association in 1910 and was its chairman until 1923. For two years, between 1925 and 1927, he was Dean of the Faculty of Music at the University of London.
He married Leonora Frances Kemp, a physician’s daughter, in 1895. He died in London on 27th March 1941.
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