HELEN HOPEKIRK (1856 – 1945)
Pianist and Teacher
Born on 20 May 1856, at what is now 148 – 150 Portobello High Street, Helen Hopekirk was the second child of Helen Croall and Adam Hopekirk, a printer, bookseller and piano retailer. She received her earliest piano training from Miss Stone, governess of Windsor Lodge Academy in Portobello, where she performed in public for the first time in July 1868. While in her teens Hopekirk attended the Edinburgh Institution for the Education of Young Ladies at 23 Charlotte Square. She continued piano instruction under Hungarian pianist George Lichtenstein, studied music theory with Alexander MacKenzie, and appeared as soloist with the Edinburgh Amateur Orchestra Society on three occasions. Fulfilling her father’s dying wish, Hopekirk continued her musical education under Louis Maas, Salomon Jadassohn and Carl Reinecke at the Leipzig Conservatorium in 1876.
By her mid-
in New York, Brooklyn, Chicago and Boston, among other cities, and presenting as many as four different programmes in as few as twelve days. Lauded for her technique and prodigious memory, the Chicago Tribune remarked that her well-
After her American tour Hopekirk wished to study piano again under a master teacher. Her first choice, Franz Liszt, died before she could join his class in Bayreuth, but her second, Theodor Leschetizky, became the single greatest influence on her playing and teaching. Working with Leschetizky in Vienna for extended periods in the mid-
Hopekirk’s second American tour (1891-
The list of her performances in the United States and Canada grew to include, in addition to nearly 200 solo recitals, twelve appearances as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (twice in her own compositions) and multiple collaborations with Boston-
Helen Hopekirk was best known as a pianist and teacher during her lifetime, but composition remained a strong interest throughout her career. While attending classes at the Leipzig Conservatory, she wrote short piano pieces and vocal selections that combined aspects of art and parlour song. Following additional study with Carl Nawratil in Vienna in the late 1880s and with Richard Mandl in Paris in the early 1890’s, she scaled down her performance schedule in favor of composition. Devoting winters to teaching and limited performing, and summers solely to composition, Hopekirk added many large-
When she and Wilson relocated to Boston in 1897, Hopekirk became the only foreign-
This very successful concert of songs and works for piano and violin composed by Hopekirk was organised by Portobello Community Council with the support of City of Edinburgh Council and aided by a grant from the Hope Scott Trust. Two academic musicians and performers, Drs Gary Steigerwalt and his wife Dana Muller, assembled the programme and travelled from their home in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where Gary is Professor of Music at Mount Holyoke College, to perform in Portobello.
Prior to the recital composer, writer and musicologist, Dr John Purser, author of Scotland’s Music, gave an illustrated talk on Hopekirk and her times.
150th Anniversary Celebrations
19th – 21st May 2006
Portobello Community Council also commissioned a plaque to honour Hopekirk and this was erected above the street door at 148 Portobello High Street. The plaque was unveiled on Sunday 21st May by Mr William Hopekirk, Helen Hopekirk’s last surviving relative in Scotland. Donations towards the cost of the plaque were received from a number of persons in Massachusetts who had benefited from Hopekirk’s influence as a teacher in Boston.
Vote of Thanks to performers by Robert Gatliff, Community Council Chair
(l to r) Mairi Campbell (violin); Gary Steigerwalt (piano); Dana Muller (piano); Alison Beck (soprano)
William Hopekirk presenting his wife with a rose from Dana’s bouquet.
Celia Butterworth, Portobello Community Council, and William Hopekirk prepare to unveil the plaque.