'The most interesting twentieth century Scots musician you've never heard of' - Grant Covell
Scottish composer, conductor, entrepreneur, internationalist and socialist Erik Chisholm was born in Glasgow on 4 January 1904. Ill health led him to leave school at thirteen. Early talent as a composer led to some pieces being published whilst he was still a child. He took piano lessons with Philip Halsetead at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and organ lessons with Herbert Walton. By the age of twelve, he was giving organ recitals. After a year working in Nova Scotia, he returned to Scotland and studied with Donald Tovey at Edinburgh University from 1928 until 1934. During this time, he also formed the Scottish Ballet Society, and the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music, and worked for the Glasgow Weekly Herald and the Scottish Daily Express as a music critic.
His career was an eventful one, beginning in Glasgow, conducting opera and composing. He was conductor of Glasgow Grand Opera, the Barony Opera Society, The Scottish Ballet Society and Celtic Ballet. During the war, unfit for military service, and a conscientious objector, he conducted the Carl Rosa Opera Company, toured Italy with the Anglo-Polish Ballet, formed a multi-racial orchestra in India and founded the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Returning again to Scotland, he married the daughter of fellow Scottish composer Francis George Scott, and then emigrated to South Africa after the war to take up appointments as professor of music at Cape Town University and director of the South African College of Music. His years in South Africa were eventful, reviving the South African College of Music, establishing the college's opera company and opera school, and founding the South African National Music Press and the South African section of the International Society for Contemporary Music.
Chisholm died of a heart attack on 8 June 1965 in Cape Town, leaving more than one hundred compositions. Chasing a Restless Muse: Erik Chisholm, Scottish Modernist (1904-1965), a biography by John Purser, was published in 2009.
A selection of M&V articles about Erik Chisholm
CD Spotlight. Masterly Throughout - Erik Chisholm's opera 'Simoon', heard by Gerald Fenech. '... Chisholm rises to the occasion with some spectacular music ...'
CD Spotlight. Unpretentious but Satisfying - Piano music by Erik Chisholm, heard by Michael Graubart. '... effortless technique ...'