Musician William McElwee has been awarded the Maxwell Fernie Dame Malvina Major Foundation Award to further his studies in the organ.
The award honours the memory of acclaimed New Zealand organist, conductor and teacher, Maxwell Fernie, who died in 1999.
William McElwee is a professional organist, accompanist, choral conductor, vocal coach, composer, and bass soloist. He is Director of Music at St Mary of the Angels, Wellington, where he leads the St Mary of the Angels Choir and Schola Cantorum Youth Choir and deputises as an organist and pianist. He will use the award to fund lessons with respected organist Roy Tankersley.
The Dame Malvina Major Foundation has recently taken over management of the Maxwell Fernie Trust. It will make annual awards, in consultation with Maxwell’s widow Greta Fernie, to support young keyboard artists to further their education or training in the organ.
Dame Malvina says it is a privilege for the Dame Malvina Major Foundation to be able to recognise Maxwell Fernie’s legacy and to manage the Trust in his name.
“Supporting the development of young performing artists is the purpose of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, so we are well positioned to carefully and thoughtfully manage scholarships and named bequests or donations that support the performing arts on behalf of other trusts and individuals.”
William McElwee is a multi-faceted musician, engaged professionally as an organist, accompanist, choral conductor, vocal coach, composer, and bass soloist. He is Director of Music at St. Mary of the Angels, Wellington, where he leads the St Mary of the Angels Choir and Schola Cantorum Youth Choir and deputises as an organist and pianist.
He returned to Wellington in 2020 from the United Kingdom, where he was Musical Director of the Yeovil Chamber Choir and Collegium Singers (Taunton), Assistant Musical Director of Budleigh Salterton Male Voice Choir, Organist at Holy Family Church Honiton, Deputy Choral Scholar at Exeter Cathedral and Buckfast Abbey, and Singing Teacher at The Gryphon School in Sherborne, while maintaining a private teaching studio.
Previously in Wellington, he held positions as Accompanist and Assistant Conductor of Northern Chorale, Acting Director of Music at St James Lower Hutt and St Peter’s Willis St, and Musical Director of the Village Singers. As a singer, he has appeared as a soloist with Days Bay Opera, Eternity Opera, numerous choirs in the Wellington Region, and sung with the New Zealand Opera Chorus.
He studied at the New Zealand School of Music with Richard Greager and Margaret Medlyn and attended the New Zealand Opera School. Alongside his PGDip and BMus in Performance Voice, he holds a BSc in Mathematics and a BA in English and Latin with Honours in English Language.