Categories: Australian Notables | Orchestral Musicians | Australian Musicians | Pianists | Composers | Conductors | Commanders of the Order of the British Empire | Companions of the Order of Australia.
Alan was born on 17th November 1925 at Schenectady, New York. He was the eldest of seven children of Alan Mackerras and Catherine MacLaurin. His family moved back to Australia in 1928, to the eastern Sydney suburb, Vaucluse. In 1933, after the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (what a landmark to impress a creative 7-year old mind), the family moved to the northside suburb of Turramurra.
While at Sydney Grammar School, he displayed great talent by composing operas and conducting student performances. He began studying oboe, piano and composition at 16 years of age at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music; earning a small income from writing orchestral scores from recordings.
Charles married Judy Wilkins, a clarinettist at Sadlers' Wells, in August 1947. They had two children.
The couple moved to London, England, to pursue Charles' music career. He became principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra from 1954 to 1956. He conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the opening concert of the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 1973. In 1982 he was the first Australian to be appointed chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1985.
Charles was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1974 New Year Honours, and was knighted in the 1979 New Year Honours. In 1997 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for services to music and Australian music. Amongst many other civic and industry awards, in 2003 Charles was made a Companion of Honour (CH) in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
He passed away on 14th July 2010 in London from cancer. He was still working in the world of music at the time of his death, with several major conducting opportunities booked.
One obituary acclaimed Charles in stating: "Sir Charles Mackerras, who has died aged 84 of cancer, was one of the most versatile, adventurous and generally admired and respected conductors of the past six decades. He boxed the compass of repertory and musical experience in a manner equalled by few, if any, of his contemporaries."
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