News and Events



Paul Harris, Director of the Malcolm Arnold Festival


Director's Letter

Welcome to the 11th Malcolm Arnold Festival! We’ve called it ‘The Voice of the People’ - which of course sums up Sir Malcolm’s intentions as a composer. He was always determined to write music that could be immediately appreciated and although he embraced many 20th century ‘isms, his music remains utterly accessible.

As usual, there are endless highlights, special events and special guests. Among them…

We launch, on Saturday October 15th at 11am at our regular venue, the wonderful Royal & Derngate in Northampton, with composer Nigel Hess following in the footsteps of Hayley Mills, Robert Hardy, Tim Rice, John Wallace and all our other distinguished ‘launchers’! The Launch concert will include a performance of Song of Simeon – Nicolas Chagrin, who played the very first Simeon in 1960, will be a very special guest – and the World Premiere of Malcolm’s unfinished Opera, ‘Henri Christophe’ in fact he only completed 27 pages of orchestral introduction. We’ll be hearing these pages for the first time ever!

At 12pm the great John Wallace will be performing the Brass Quintet with the 4 winners of his Malcolm Arnold Fantasies competition and each of those winners will be performing their respective Malcolm Arnold Fantasy. John will also be launching his new CD of Malcolm’s brass music. Should be quite an event!

After lunch, Alice Pinto returns to talk about Malcolm’s early music and we will be including yet more World Premieres! Some hitherto unheard songs from his Kensington Gardens collection. We’ll also be hearing a range of his other early music, including music for string quartet, piano, voice and oboe.

We then move for our annual visit to St Matthews, for our afternoon ‘Family concert’ with the Northampton Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Gibbons. Highlights include the World Premiere of a specially commissioned work by Timothy Bowers to sit alongside Malcolm’s ‘Carnival of Animals’. Tim has called it ‘Carnival of Carnivores’ and we look forward to both works with tremendous excitement! We’re also including a rare performance of Malcolm’s ‘Machines’, ‘The Grand, Grand Overture’ which will include one of the original vacuum cleaners. And we’ll be hearing some music by our special guest Nigel Hess, from his film ‘Ladies in Lavender’.

In the evening, the excellent Jenny Dyson returns with her Wind Quintet to present a programme of all of Malcolm’s music for Wind Quintet, plus other Wind Quintet’s from the 20th century.

Sunday morning begins with a programme of orchestral music played by the marvellous Northamptonshire Country Youth Orchestra and this will be followed by Kriss Rusman (who, amongst many other things, made the wonderful BBC Omnibus programme about Malcolm) giving a talk on ‘The Voice of the People’.

After lunch, John Griff presents ‘The Forgotten Documentaries’ where we shall hear some of Malcolm’s virtually unknown music. This will be followed by the return of Claire Thompson, who will perform some more songs from the films and other sparkling miniatures accompanied by flute and piano.

This will be followed by a very special concert, which will include another rare performance, this time of the Piano Duet Concerto, also the Clarinet Concertino and Toy Symphony with the Janus Ensemble conducted by Ben Palmer.

We are absolutely delighted to welcome back the BBC Concert Orchestra for the Gala concert in an Arnold and Walton programme – the perfect match – and I’m expecting a sell-out! Among other items we have the wonderful Craig Ogden playing the Guitar Concerto, Symphony no.6 and Walton’s ‘Spitfire, Prelude and Fugue’.

So there’s a glimpse of what we have in store! And the Derngate are again offering tickets at fantastically generous prices. So book yours now! (01604 624811)

See you there!


Paul Harris



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