6th August 2010 at 01:00
Agnes Hoey, who has died aged 78, was the inspirational youth choir conductor Glasgow almost never had.

Agnes Hoey, who has died aged 78, was the inspirational youth choir conductor Glasgow almost never had.

With ambitions to be an opera singer, she successfully auditioned for the Covent Garden Opera Company. But, aged 18, she was deemed too young and told to return a year later.

In the interim, she embarked on a teaching career she loved and London's loss was Glasgow's gain as she never did go back.

Hoey was brought up in a musical family in Springburn and began singing as a child. Her father, William, played violin in a local orchestra and often took her to concerts.

When she was just seven, the adjudicator at a music competition was Sir Hugh Roberton, founder of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir. Neither could have known her destiny would embrace a similarly significant contribution to the city's choral tradition.

Hoey became involved in choirs as a favour to her mother, Rachael, who was on the committee of the Co-operative Children's Choir. When they were looking for someone to take over, she agreed to conduct it for two years.

But teaching became her life. She studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and received her LRAM diploma in 1956.

Meanwhile the choir, which became the Glasgow Youth Choir in 1957, grew so large that she had to divide it into juniors and seniors. Eventually it was taken under the auspices of Glasgow Corporation's further education department, which organised performances abroad.

At its peak there were up to 300 members. Hoey never liked to turn anyone away and believed most children could sing. Many went on to do so professionally, including several who joined Scottish Opera. Others are teaching in schools throughout the UK.

Hoey qualified as a teacher at Edinburgh's Moray House in 1966 and for many years was head of music at Stonelaw High in Rutherglen.

In 1977 she was named Scotswoman of the Year and awarded a Silver Jubilee Medal by the Queen. She received an MBE in 1986 and an honorary doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2006 for services to choral music.

She nurtured the talent of generations of Glasgow children and maintained the great west of Scotland choral legacy when such cultural traditions were under threat.

Jim Hunter, honorary president of Glasgow Youth Choir and director of music at Kelvingrove Art Gallery, said: "Her choirs were a dream to work with.

"Aurally, the sound was full and pure, the diction immaculate, and visually, every choir member's face mirrored hers - bright-eyed, smiling and communicating the sheer joy and love of singing."

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