Though it is correct to say that MacEwen’s music is somewhat ‘post-Wagnerian’,he drew much inspiration from Scottish folk-music traditions and also contemporary French music, especially Debussy and Fauré. He wrote a large amount of chamber music, including 16 string quartets and six violin sonatas. His orchestral compositions include the ‘Solway Symphony’ and three Border Ballads, Hills o’ Heather for cello and orchestra and ‘Where the wild Thyme grows’ for small orchestra; also the ambitious choral-orchestr al setting of Milton’s Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.
MacEwen studied at Glasgow University and, from 1893-5, at the Royal Academy of Music in London. From 1895-8 he was a choirmaster at Greenock in Scotland and professor of piano at the Glasgow Athenaeum school of music, then in 1898 returned to the R.A.M. as professor of harmony and counterpoint. From 1924 to 1936 he was Principal of the R.A.M. in succession to Mackenzie and was knighted in 1931.