May 15, 1915
Page 45

O'Brien Butler, Composer, and Hamish Mackay, Baritone, Among Missing—Both Were Returning from America After Making Propaganda for the Music of Their Native Lands, Ireland and Scotland, Respectively

Late reports indicate that O'Brien Butler, the Irish composer, took passage on board the ill-fated Lusitania and that his name does not appear on the list of saved. The offices of the Cunard Line informed MUSICAL AMERICA on Tuesday that Mr. Butler’s name was on the second cabin passenger list, and that he was not listed among the survivors.
Mr. Butler, who was known as the father of Irish opera, was in New York four months endeavoring to bring about the production of his folk opera, “Muirgheis.” Parts of this work were heard in New York recently, when Mr. Butler gave a concert of his own works in Aeolian Hall. He was an ardent propagandist for the music of his native land and set himself the formidable task of resuscitating the old music of Ireland.
For this work he was well endowed, having been born among the peasantry and having absorbed much of the fairy-lore and traditional tunes which still linger near the soil.
Mr. Butler’s technical equipment was derived in Italy and later in London under Sir Charles V. Stanford and Walter Parratt. He spent much time in India, among the Himalayas, where “Muirgheis,” which is described as the first real Irish opera, was written. The composer was in the prime of life at the time that he embarked. MUSICAL AMERICA recently published an extended article about Mr. Butler and his work.
Scotch music lost a devoted propagandist in the United States with the death of Hamish Mackay, the baritone, as one of the victims of the Lusitania disaster. Mr. Mackay had first secured passage on the Cameronia, but as a number of his friends were sailing on the Lusitania, he changed his tickets so that he might go on that vessel. Mackay had made the journey that he might join his wife and child in Edinburgh.
During the past two seasons Mr. Mackay had been acquainting Americans with the beauty of the music of his native Scotland. In the hundredth celebration of the battle of Bannockburn at Carnegie Hall, New York, June 24, 1914, Mr. Mackay delivered an address on “The Possibilities and Future of Scottish Music.” He announced a movement in Edinburgh to found a National School of Scottish Music, and asked the moral support of Scots in America. He urged them that when they presented a Scotch program they would use the very best Scotch music, that the public might have a wider outlook on the musical strength of Scotland.
Mr. Mackay further told of the serious work being done by modern Scotch composers and had his accompanist, Fay Foster, play themes from these ambitious works. Both Mr. Mackay and Miss Foster were garbed in the ancient Gaelic costume.
This Scotch baritone came to America to do for Scottish song what Plunkett Greene, some years ago, did for Irish song. Mr. Mackay was a pupil of George Henschel, with whom he studied lieder. While singing or lecturing on Scots songs Mr. Mackay wore an exact replica of the Highland costume worn by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”), copied from the dress now in the Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.
Mr. Mackay gave a recital in Aeolian Hall, New York, on November 5 last, with the aid of Fay Foster, appearing in Jacobite costume for the Scottish folk songs. Before the New York Musicians’ Club on November 22, the two artists presented a program including much Scotch music, Mr. Mackay adding to the interest by explaining the folk songs. A Scottish musicale was given in Mr. Mackay’s honor at the Amsterdam Opera House, New York, on December 15, Miss Foster appearing as Mr. Mackay’s accompanist.
Mr. Mackay and Miss Foster had already booked a number of engagements for the coming Fall and Winter.
Among the other musical passengers on the Lusitania were ten members of the Gwent Welsh Male Chorus, who were returning to Europe after completing a tour of the United States. John L. Debbs, Ben Davis, David Griffith, and George E. Lane, also members of the chorus, had booked passage, but at the last moment decided to remain in Pittsburgh to visit friends. The quartet which remained in Pittsburgh went to New York last week to leave on the Transylvania.
Among the first of the survivors to arrive in London was Oliver P. Barnard. He had been in America for six months in connection with a projected scheme for co-operative opera to be conducted by Mr. Quinlan on that side and by Otto H. Kahn on the American side. His wife is the well-known English singer, Muriel Terry Barnard.
Of the members of the ship’s band, the Cunard offices in New York have received word that the leader, Mr. Wakeford, is among the survivors.
America’s light opera field suffers a distinct loss in the death of Charles Frohman, among whose many theatrical activities had been the producing of operetta upon the most artistic basis. The sad fate of Charles Klein, the dramatist, brought grief into a musical family, which includes Manuel Klein, now conductor at the London Hippodrome, and Hermann Klein, author and vocal teacher.
Fay Foster’s Warm Tribute to Hamish Mackay
NEW YORK, May 9, 1915.
To the Editor of MUSICAL AMERICA:
Allow me, through your columns, to pay a tribute of respect to my friend, Hamish Mackay, lost in the terrible disaster of the Lusitania.
I was associated with him as a musical co-worker, immediately after his arrival in New York, a little over two years ago, appearing with him at many concerts, both public and private, and our business, as well as social relations, were always of the most pleasant nature. He was always kind, considerate, unselfish, and his unbounded good humor and never-failing optimism were contagious.
His musical ideals were high, and very near to his heart was the wish to show to the world the best in his dearly beloved Scottish music, and to the accomplishment of this aim, as well as all others, he brought limitless energy and untiring resolve.
An unusually strong reciprocal attachment existed between himself and his young and beautiful wife, also a singer of repute. She wrote to me often from Edinburgh, always wishing us success before any public concert, and usually calling her husband “My beloved boy.”
He made many friends, and I extend to them all, as well as his bereaved family, my sincerest sympathy. —FAY FOSTER.


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