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‘Parasol’ - Sir Malcolm Arnold’s only Musical.
Kenneth Ian Hÿtch
“Mmm ‘Parasol’ … some good stuff in that – you could do it at your school, my boy!!” Sir Malcolm was looking at a newly published catalogue of his works, Wymondham College, Norfolk was the school, and I, as Director of Music, was “the boy”!

The first staged version of the work was born. Malcolm, in his usual generosity, arranged for the BBC to send us the copies and for Ned Sherrin, the librettist, to agree to the performance which duly took place in 1987. The music and scripts arrived but there was no full score! It took me months to write it out (no computer programme to help me!) but it was worth it. The BBC made a documentary of the rehearsals with Ned Sherrin and Malcolm Arnold attending. They offered advice – Malcolm - “A little slower please” and Ned - “Oh being brash and sexy – I would imagine you were type cast!”

The work was originally written for the opening of the Riverside Studios in 1960, Peter Sallis had a role in that production as Max the ‘side-kick’ to Anatol whose amorous adventures provided the story written by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin. Each of the four ‘amours’ leaving a parasol behind – hence the title.

Malcolm’s skill as a tunesmith is evident throughout the work – the four ‘ladies’ that come and go in Anatol’s life each having a superb number to sing. It is an ideal production for a school needing four female leads and two men, with many additional parts from the chorus.

In a continued effort to have this work be heard by a wider audience, permission has been granted to create a suite of songs from the work. ‘A Pride of Parasols’ will be performed on Saturday 6th May in Central Baptist Church in Norwich, by the Framingham Earl Singers and an invited orchestra, leader Elizabeth Marjoram, conducted by Kenneth Ian Hÿtch. The 20 minute suite consists of five songs with an orchestral interlude of the Sleigh Ride – all using Malcolm’s brilliant orchestration.

It is only right that this charmingly funny and entertaining work should be heard again. for further information and tickets.

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