Norman O’Neill (1875-1934) was an Irish and British composer and conductor who specialized largely in works for the theatre. He studied in London with Arthur Somervell and with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt from 1893-1897. His studies there were facilitated by his lover, Eric Stenbock. He belonged to the Frankfurt Group, a circle of composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in the late 1890s.
O’Neill was associated with the Haymarket Theatre. His works include over fifty sets of incidental music for plays, including many by Shakespeare (Hamlet, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V and Measure for Measure), J. M. Barrie (A Kiss for Cinderella), and Maurice Maeterlinck (The Blue Bird). In 1910, he became the first British composer to conduct his own orchestral music on record, directing the Columbia Graphophone Company’s house ensemble, the “Court Symphony Orchestra”, in a suite taken from his Blue Bird music on two double-sided gramophone discs. He received personal congratulations from Sir Edward Elgar on his music for the innovative central ballet sequence of the 1924 revue “The Punch Bowl”, which ran for over a year with O’Neill’s contribution being widely singled out for praise in press coverage.
O’Neill’s works also include a number of symphonic suites and chamber music. He was treasurer of the Royal Philharmonic Society from 1918 until his death, and taught harmony and composition at the Royal Academy of Music.
Norman Houston O’Neill was the youngest son of the Irish painter George Bernard O’Neill (q.v.) and Emma Stuart Callcott, and was born in Kensington, London. He married Adine Berthe Maria Ruckert (born 29 July 1875, died 17 February 1947) on 2 July 1899 in Paris, France. Adine was a celebrated pianist and music teacher in her own right. When he died in 1934 he was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London, as was Adine on her death in 1947. There is a plaque there in memory to both of them.