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Grant Hossack

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Musical director, composer, arranger, pianist and organist Grant Hossack has died following a courageous fight against cancer.

Born on November 28, 1938, his original musical training was as a pianist at his school, Kent College in Canterbury. His close friend from those days, Alan Chapman, remembers the two of them playing duets at the Kent Music Festival for three years running. He said: “We always came second – I must have held him back!” Hossack learned to play the organ for school assembly and gained a music prize.

National Service found him as staff director and French horn player for the Plymouth Royal Artillery Band. He had fun, he said, composing something in the morning and hearing it played that afternoon.

For a while, acting beckoned and he completed a course at the Webber Douglas Academy. However, music became more attractive and he began to find varied work including a spell at the Casino du Liban in Beirut conducting the extravagant floorshow, Flash.

In London, he became a much sought-after musical director, wielding his baton on over 25 West End shows including A Chorus Line, A Little Night Music, Chicago, Songbook, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Annie Get Your Gun, Can Can and They’re Playing Our Song. He also conducted the recordings for in excess of 35 shows.

He did the arrangements for Mr Men – the Musical in which his greatest friend, Brenda Longman, played Zenda the Wicked Witch. She remembers Grant having one of his testy moments when she arrived to sing the role of Little Miss Splendid. “I’ve been up all fucking night arranging this,” he said, but then “I love this song”.

A musicians’ musician, Hossack was always the passionate perfectionist, known to be mercurially irascible but always apologising for losing his temper.

Television beckoned when he composed the music for all 30 episodes of the BBC TV series Nanny which starred Wendy Craig, winning him a Best Title Music for a Drama award.

He worked for the London Festival Ballet and arranged, orchestrated and conducted many productions, his favourite being Scott Joplin’s ragtime version of The Prodigal Son which opened at the London Coliseum.

Throughout his career, Hossack was also involved with many West End galas and was particularly happy to be part of Noel Coward’s 70th birthday celebration and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Grant gave up theatre when BBC Radio 2 invited him to be musical director and orchestrator for Songs From the Shows and outside concerts which he did until the 65-piece orchestra disbanded.

In later years, Grant enjoyed himself arranging the scores and conducting the orchestras that he put together for two local amateur societies, the Haslemere Players and the Grayshott Stagers. The shows included The Gondoliers, Underneath the Arches, Cabaret and the last one was Barnum in 2006.

His body of work was massive and he was a kind, generous and very talented man, now seriously missed by his many friends and colleagues. A memorial service is being planned. He died on January 6, aged 69.

Lynda Trapnell

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