Accompanist, musical director, orchestrator, arranger and composer who worked across stage and screen
As the son of an operatic tenor, Ian Macpherson seemed destined to follow his father, Andrew Macpherson, into a career in the arts. He did so in several guises: as accompanist, musical director, orchestrator, arranger and composer working across stage and screen and memorably standing in at late notice to accompany Frank Sinatra at the London Arena in 1990.
Born in Kilmarnock, he moved, aged 11, to London, when his father joined the London Opera Company and later trained at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with the Walter Macfarren prize as best recital pianist in 1959.
While still studying, he assisted and then succeeded Anthony Bowles as musical director of Bamber Gascoigne’s Share My Lettuce at London’s Garrick Theatre in 1958 to usher in a long and varied presence in the West End.
His conducting credits included Sandy Wilson’s Divorce Me, Darling! (1965) and Bill Owen and Tony Russell’s The Matchgirls (1966) at London’s Globe Theatre, Burt Bacharach and Neil Simon’s Promises, Promises (Prince of Wales, London 1969), Peter Nichols Privates on Parade (Aldwych Theatre, London, 1977), Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance (Palace Theatre, London, 1982).
For the Royal Shakespeare Company, he orchestrated and conducted Nichols and Monty Norman’s Poppy (1982) and Kiss Me, Kate (1987).
In 1988, he composed The Castaway, a musical based on Robinson Crusoe with lyrics by Peter Reeves, seen at the Horseshoe Theatre, Basingstoke.
Outside the theatre pit, he was an in-demand accompanist and music director, working with an array of singers that included Agnes Bernelle, Anne Shelton, Lulu and Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana.
He composed and arranged music for television programmes, adverts, film and library music and orchestrated film scores by Nigel Hess, Alex Heffes, Jennie Muskett and many others and assisted Irwin Kostal on orchestrating the Sherman Brothers’ musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
He wrote extensively for wind band ensemble and in later years taught orchestration at the Royal Academy of Music, where he was appointed an associate in 2006.
Ian Macpherson was born on August 18, 1935 and died on April 6, aged 84. He is survived by his life partner, Vicky Clayton.