An Interview With Nigel Hirst

Posted on February 28, 2014

Nigel Hirst has been involved with Manchester Camerata for many years as a Board member, supporter and friend. We decided to have a chat to him about his association with the orchestra, along with a few other things…

What is your relationship with Manchester Camerata?Nigel Hirst & Hannah Roberts
Former Board Member and current supporter through chair endowment and as a member of the International Directors Circle (IDC)

How long have you been involved with Manchester Camerata?
About 7 years (including 6 years on the Board)

What is your background in music?
I learned the piano from the age of 7 to 11 (and hated it!). I was introduced to the ‘cello at 11 and loved it. Been playing on and off for the last 48 years, in piano trios, string quartets and (occasionally) Bolton Symphony Orchestra

Name one person from past, present or future that you’d like to have dinner with and why
Janos Starker. I met him twice, alas only to get his autograph! I heard him play once at the Manchester International Cello Festival about 15 years ago and he was fabulous. Not only was he ‘the King of Cellists’, he was a great raconteur and survived great depravation in the Second World War. A man of strong opinions who wasn’t afraid to share them (a bit like me!)

What do you do as a career?
I have recently retired, but I was Chief Executive of Haden Freeman Group, a specialist engineering and consultancy company based in Manchester. By profession I am a chemical engineer.

Describe your favourite moment as a supporter of Manchester Camerata
There are so many! Manchester Camerata has enabled me to meet and socialise with great musicians with a frequency I could never have imagined. Through the IDC I have met many interesting and charming people I am pleased to call friends. Chatting to Giovanni Sollima after his last concert with Camerata was a great moment.

What is your favourite piece of music, and why?
Where do I start? As a cellist, there are so many works for the instrument covering the whole spectrum of life and civilisation. The Bach Cello Suites are profound and deeper than human understanding, but if I had to choose one piece it is the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto. Such a happy and uplifting piece, which I am learning to play at the moment.

Describe a time where a musical event or experience has left a lasting impression on you, and why?
I discovered the works of a 20th Century Russian Composer called Boris Tchaikovsky about 20 years ago. Virtually no one had heard of him but he was a pupil of Shostakovich and a fine man. Through the ‘Boris Tchaikovsky Society’ I managed to visit Moscow, met his widow and had a private recital in his apartment by two musicians I had sponsored. I listened sitting in a chair under a photograph of Shostakovich sitting in the same chair! The other memorable occasion was meeting Mstislav Rostropovich in 2005 during his visit to Manchester and being ‘forced’ to share a bottle of vodka with him…

What would be your perfect day?
A warm one! Waking up to bright sunshine, having lunch with friends, uninterrupted cello practice and the phone never ringing….

Why do you support Manchester Camerata?
Manchester Camerata is a lovely, friendly and aspirational organisation with strong core values and great musical integrity. I have met some wonderful people through Camerata and it deserves to succeed.

What made you endow Hannah’s Chair?
As a cellist, how could I not?

How are the ‘cello lessons going with Hannah?
‘Occasionally’. Hannah reminds me that I have been learning the cello longer than she has been alive…

What is your greatest personal achievement?
Buying a business no one wanted or believed in and turning it into a profitable business, which has been able to support a wide range of charities over the last 15 years.

Why would you encourage others to support Manchester Camerata?
It is an exciting and committed organisation, which deserves more success. With the backing of equally exciting and committed supporters, it will achieve great things…

To find out about how you can get involved with Manchester Camerata, get in touch with Harriet on

E: or T: 0161 908 0041.