Over the years, Sir Malcolm had surmounted so many serious crises of health that when the news broke on Saturday 23 September that he had died, just weeks before his 85th birthday, it was a great shock to everyone.
For the first night audience at his new ballet The Three Musketeers, the sad news was broken from the stage of Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre by David Nixon, the Northern Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director moments before the performance began. The two hours’ of Sir Malcolm’s music which followed, embracing most aspects of his work, were a reminder to everyone that evening of the remarkable genius who has now passed from this world.
The BBC News later described him as “a towering figure in the history of British music”. Indeed he was.
The inaugural Arnold Festival in October 2006 at the Royal & Derngate Theatres, Northampton, was to have been a celebration of Sir Malcolm’s 85th birthday. Instead it became a celebration of his life.
Sir Malcolm Arnold enhanced the lives of millions in a way given to few. In the universal language of music he has been able to communicate to people the world over, offering joy and beauty, challenge and comfort. He will long continue to do so.
Tony Meredith and Paul Harris. September 2006
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