Tribute to a pioneer of music in Buxton

Sam Fraser, Dame Janet Smith, Fay Fraser and Michael Williams. Photo contributed.
Sam Fraser, Dame Janet Smith, Fay Fraser and Michael Williams. Photo contributed.

A commemorative framed photograph in honour of Buxton’s music pioneer Malcolm Fraser has been unveiled at the town’s Opera House.

A founder of Buxton Festival, Malcolm’s plans for the opera festival also played a major role in the regeneration of Buxton Opera House.

Ten months on since his death at the age of 72, members of the Festival and Opera House Board and Festival Friends met on the Dress Circle landing to unveil the commemorative photograph.

Dame Janet Smith, Chairman of Buxton Festival, said: “Buxton Festival wanted to honour Malcolm’s vision and ensure current and future theatre and Festival audiences were made aware of his legacy.”

In 1976, Malcolm, on a family outing to Buxton, spotted the run-down Opera House showing the film Jaws. Malcolm, a lecturer in opera at the Royal Northern College of Music, had a vision of this building as the home of an annual opera festival.

With the help of Welsh National Opera conductor Anthony Hose, he set about putting his dream into action.

A steering committee was formed under councillor Ray Walter’s chairmanship to decide how to proceed. An appeal was launched in 1978 and attracted encouraging support.

Thanks largely to the efforts of Margaret Millican, sufficient funds were raised from the borough council, English Tourist Board and other funding sources.

In 1979, the first Buxton Festival was staged with Malcolm as Artistic Director, a role that he held for ten successful years. The nationally-renowned July event continues to go from strength to strength with a programme of opera, music and a growing literary series.

Chairman of Buxton Opera House Michael Williams, who served on the original committee, added: “Malcolm’s plans made all the difference and what has happened since 1979 has exceeded all our wildest dreams.”