Hopes tragic dad's cello appeal will strike chord

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A CHARITY appeal has been launched in a bid to prevent a well-loved musician's bereaved family from having to sell off his beloved cello.

A Concert for Kevin, at the Queen's Hall, is being staged in memory of Kevin McCrae, a popular and highly-acclaimed cellist and composer who had worked with famous musicians such as Nigel Kennedy and Eddi Reader.

The 43-year-old father-of-two died in April last year after being hit by a train close to his East Lothian home at Seton Mains, near Longniddry.

He had forged a stellar career as co-principal cellist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for 18 years and, shortly before his death, had begun to establish himself as a composer.

His grieving widow, the SCO violinist Fiona Alexander, was devastated by his death, as were the hundreds of professional musicians and junior instrumentalists he had worked with over the years.

Worried about the financial implications of her husband's death, she agonised over whether or not to sell his cello in order to help support herself and their two sons, Alexander, three and Hamish, two.

The instrument, an 18th- century cello made by William Forster, whose family supplied stringed instruments to King George II, is worth an estimated 35,000.

As well as keeping it for sentimental reasons, Ms Alexander, 39, hopes that one day one or both of her young sons might follow in their father's footsteps.

She said: "I won't push them into it, but if one of them expresses an interest, it would be very nice if they could play their daddy's instrument.

"Money is an ongoing worry, though, because I have just got the one income now. But selling the cello is the last thing I would want to do."

While she agonised over the decision, a family friend, Maureen Morrison, stepped into the breach.

The owner of Stringers instrument shop in York Place, who sat next to Mr McCrae in the SCO for six years, pledged to raise the value of the cello by holding concerts and other fundraising events to generate money for the Kevin McCrae Cello Fund. After months of planning, around 65 young musicians aged between six and 26 will come together on January 29 for a special programme of music dedicated to and inspired by their mentor.

Ms Morrison, a breast cancer survivor who helped establish a pioneering 9 million centre of excellence to combat the disease, has brought together her Edinburgh Children's Orchestra, the Edinburgh Academy Dance Band and former Edinburgh youth orchestra members now studying at music college for the tribute concert.

She said: "All of these youngsters were influenced and inspired by Kevin at some point. He was a fantastic man; an amazing and brilliant musician, and an inspiration to the children. It can be so dry teaching classical music to youngsters, but he just had such a fantastic way of composing really fun arrangements for them.

"This is specially to pay tribute to his contribution and the fact that he was such an inspiration to children and young people. They were all completely devastated by his death - we all were. "

Ms Alexander, who will take her two sons to the concert, added: "It's always lovely to have children playing and Kevin had such a great rapport with them."

The concert on January 29 at 3pm will feature a variety of music ranging from Vivaldi to Dizzy Gillespie. Tickets cost from 5 to 15.