Opera Scotland

Mr S C Hirst Suggest updates

Samuel Copley Hirst.

Born Huddersfield, 19 February 1843.

Died Dundee, 5 August 1921.

English organist, conductor and teacher.

Samuel Hirst played a pivotal role in the musical life of Eastern Scotland for half a century. His father played double-bass in local orchestras near Huddersfield, and Samuel quickly played the violin well enough to join him. By twelve he had dropped the violin, and switched to piano and organ. He studied the organ under a famous exponent, Walter Parratt (later knighted by Queen Victoria). Employed by the Huddersfield organ builder Peter Conacher (himself a Scot, though trained in Leipzig) to assemble and demonstrate instruments, Hirst was sent to Dundee in April 1864, and was quickly offered a permanent post. He remained organist of Dundee Parish Church (St Mary's) for fifty years, retiring in 1915.

In addition to his extensive church commitments, he helped to establish a thriving network of orchestras and choral societies in Dundee and the surrounding towns of Perth, Cupar, Forfar, Blairgowrie and Newport (facilitated by the rapid expansion of the railways). If he didn't conduct these himself, he was frequently accompanist, either on organ, piano or harmonium. He also pioneered the development of amateur operatic performances, conducting many productions of opera to a high standard. In this he was undoubtedly helped by the high standard of theatre orchestra developed under the long-term management of William McFarland. This continued after his retirement with the appointment of H Everitt Loseby to the post of musical director of the pit band.

His family were also musical, and an elder sister, Mary, had a substantial concert career in the 1860s, under the name Annette Hirst. She retired following her marriage to tenor David Miranda. However her two daughters, Lalla and Beatrice, born in Melbourne, enjoyed substantial operatic careers, and made regular visits to their uncle in Dundee. Beatrice Miranda lived in Edinburgh in later life, and Lalla died there.

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