Nicholas McNair, resident in Portugal since 1980, developed his own perspective on music as a child through the use of improvisation. Head chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, he studied at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music.
In London he wrote solo, chamber and choral works supported by the Arts Council of Great Council sponsored a concert of his works in Queluz Palace, Portugal in May 1991, and commissioned a cantata Magnificat in 1992.
He worked in the 1990s as editor with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, researching and revising the operas of Mozart and Beethoven, recorded by DG-Archiv. His opera editions include Antigono by Mazzoni (Lisboa October 1755, world premiere CCB 2011), Paride ed Elena by Gluck (Vienna 1770), and the oratorio Ester by António Leal Moreira (Lisboa 1786).
A teacher at the Escola Superior de Música in Lisboa, he was Artistic Director of its Opera Studio (2011-2015), initiating the Orpheus project for young composers in collaboration with ENOA and Gulbenkian Foundation. He has worked regularly with the Gulbenkian Choir and Orchestra as organist and pianist.
He collaborated as editor and repetiteur with Robert Wilson and Philip Glass (Lisboa, Madrid, New York), Lorenzo Mariani (Parma), Carina Reich and Bogdan Szyber (Lisboa, Stockholm), Terry Jones and Luis Tinoco (Lisboa), Luís Miguel Sintra and Vasco Mendonça, etc.
In 2016 he created music for João Botelho’s film O Cinema, Manoel de Oliveira, e eu, having previously made live music for 150 silent films at the Cinemateca in Lisboa, also Cannes Festival (1995), and National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., (1997).
In October 2016 he created his first full-length soundtrack for the film Mulheres de Beira (Rino Lupo 1923), issued by Cinemateca Portuguesa as a DVD with Os Lobos (Lupo 1924), for which he recorded the original score by Tomás de Lima.