Kieran McGuirk 1949-2014

Kieran McGuirk
Kieran McGuirk

With great sadness, St Albans Symphony Orchestra (SASO) records the death of its chair, Kieran McGuirk, aged 65.

An accomplished  musician, Kieran not only played violin with SASO for more than a decade, but also performed regularly with the Hertfordshire Philharmonia. As a singer, he was a valued member of both the St Albans Chamber Choir and the city’s Bach Choir.  Although increasingly unwell as the consequence of a rare eye cancer first diagnosed in 2011, he was able to sing in a Bach Choir performance of Verdi’s Requiem in London as recently as July.

As SASO’s chair for almost seven years he worked with its conductors James Ross and – from 2010 – Bjorn Bantock to raise the standard of playing and enable the orchestra to tackle increasingly challenging repertoire.

David Utting, the orchestra’s acting chair said: “Kieran’s contribution to our orchestra has simply been outstanding. He gave freely of his skills as an administrator as well as a musician and made a tremendous impact in an era when the orchestra has gone from strength to strength. It was an achievement of which he was deservedly proud. He was a remarkable, generous man and will be sorely missed by us all.”

Jenny Wigram, SASO’s leader, added: “Under Kieran’s guidance, the orchestra had new focus and achieved some wonderful music making. He was always so supportive, thoughtful and inspirational as to what we could do. Recently, he wouldn’t allow the cancer to stop him trying to achieve his visions, and was still keeping us on our toes.

“Kieran was an exceptional person and his contribution to the orchestra will have a long term effect.”

Liverpool-born and educated, Kieran studied mathematics at Jesus College, Cambridge, before joining the computer company ICL. In the 1970s, he was seconded via Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) to help conduct a water resources survey in the impoverished central African state of Malawi. It was there that he met his fellow volunteer and future wife, Ros, who was teaching.  He continued to work for ICL – subsequently part of Fujitsu –throughout his career, rising to senior management positions.  Following his retirement eight years ago, he threw himself into the musical life of the city.

Kieran was also an enthusiast for walking in mountainous areas of the world, reaching the summit of Mont Blanc in 2011 and completing by a trek round Annapurna in Nepal just a year ago. He was also a keen practical environmentalist and supporter of Friends of the Earth.  He and Ros, who settled in Marshalswick, have three grown-up children: Anna, Tom and James.

A performance in Saffron Walden of Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, given by SASO and the Saffron Opera Group on Sunday 14th September, was attended by Ros and dedicated to Kieran’s memory.

Kieran’s funeral will take place at 2.40pm on Thursday October 2nd at Garston Crematorium. His family would like memorial donations to go to OcuMel, the support charity for people with ocular melanoma that he chaired for two years, Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Rennie Grove House Hospice.