Like many I was very sad when I got the following news from Iain Murray of Proper Music Distribution: “I am sorry to inform you that our colleague, David Fraser, passed away peacefully on the 9th February after a long battle with cancer. David, UK Label Manager/Publicist for ECM Records, will be fondly remembered by all here at Proper as a quiet, passionate man with a quick wit and his knowledge and experience will be sorely missed.”
Eddie Wilkinson, long David’s colleague – initially at New Note and later at Proper Music Distribution – expands: “I am still struggling with the reality of never seeing or speaking with David again. We worked together for almost 22 years, and I still remember vividly the day I interviewed him for the post of ECM Press Officer at New Note. He outshone the other applicants by a mile.
“As kind as he was modest, David was very much ‘old school’, a real stickler for punctuation and grammar and an expert proof-reader. His desk, piled high with newspapers, magazines and press cuttings, may have given an impression of disorder, but he knew where everything was and could find things in an instant. One of a kind, David was extremely knowledgeable about music and the arts, and exceptionally good at his job. Fond memories of our many trips across Europe together (ECM conferences, concerts, and trade fairs) will stay with me forever. A good colleague and friend, I am going to miss David a great deal.”
Amen to that. I first met David just after he joined New Note and treasure the memory of the many lengthy conversations we came to enjoy, both in person and by telephone. Throughout all the time I knew him, I found David to be the complete professional. He was also a most affable and engaging person – and, as Eddie says – as modest as he was kind. While I knew about his passion for Scottish rugby and his love of walking the Scottish hills, I never became aware, for example, that he played the cello and double bass – sometimes, in early days, in a free improvising ensemble – having bucked the family tradition of a career in medicine to pursue his love of music. Nor did I know that, at various stages of his career, he had reviewed live music, theatre and recordings for various publications.
He was born in Aberdeen, 25 November 1951, and as a teenager spent a year in India with his family while his father worked for the World Health Organisation. David’s initial achievements in PR included work for the Macrobert Arts Centre at the University of Stirling, the Scottish National Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Scottish Opera – where he worked with his future wife, Rosemary.
The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester drew upon David’s PR expertise before a move further south involved employment at BBC Radio 3. There were various freelance projects for the corporation, including The Proms and BBC Young Musician of the Year and in the mid-1990s David edited the publication Fairest Isle: BBC 3 Book of British Music, an introduction to British classical music from the Middle Ages to the present.
Such a rich background served David well at New Note and Proper Music. He brought a special level of literate and open-minded commitment to his role, whether communicating with musicians and composers, promoters and reviewers, attending the sort of European ECM events mentioned above by Eddie, or preparing press releases and sending out promotional copies of new recordings. At concerts he would often stay long after the performance had ended, in order to help the musicians get their recordings out to the public.
Right up to the final stages of his illness, David retained his positive and outward-looking mien. Although he wasn’t well enough to really enjoy the recent Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and England, which took place just a few days before he died, he broke into the biggest smile when his family told him of Scotland’s victory.
Together with Iain and Eddie – and many, many others, I am sure – I will miss keenly David’s quietly pitched yet warmly engaging voice, his incisive intelligence and idiosyncratic sense of humour. Above all, I will miss a truly lovely man, whose deep-seated enthusiasm for the music he did so much to support and promote during his time at New Note and Proper Music Distribution will continue to leave a special mark on many a life.
David is survived by his wife Rosemary, their daughters, Alison and Emily, his older brother Neil and his twin brother Alan. Following a memorial celebration in London, David’s ashes are to be taken to Glen Gairn in Deeside, Scotland, where his great-grandfather was minister.