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The Fourth Malcolm Arnold Festival

I am delighted to be able to announce details of the Fourth Malcolm Arnold Festival, which will be taking place over the weekend of October 24th, and 25th at our home in the Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton.

As usual we have an extremely varied and exciting programme of talks, recitals and concerts.  The Festival will be launched on Saturday morning by the composer John McCabe.  John’s friendship with Sir Malcolm goes back a long way and he has been particularly associated with the Ukrainian Variations (more on this later!).  His opening address will be enveloped by all four of Malcolm’s rarely played Fanfares for Brass: the Kingston Fanfare, Richmond Fanfare, Railway Fanfare and Fanfare for a Royal Occasion played by the excellent brass ensemble from the Northamptonshire County Youth Orchestra.  Following this we shall enjoy a special recital, entitled ‘Portraits’, given by the superb young players from the Purcell School.  They will be playing all of Sir Malcolm’s Sonatinas together with the ebullient Scherzetto for clarinet and piano.  Malcolm wrote virtually all his music for specific players and so before each performance we will receive a short ‘portrait’ (in pictures and words) of the dedicatee.

After lunch we have the first ever Malcolm Arnold Composition Prize.  Young composers have been challenged to write a short work based on one of Sir Malcolm’s themes.   We already have had a lot of nationwide interest in this competition.  There are two Prizes (one for school and the other for college or university aged composers).   A small number (in each category) will be chosen for performance and the judges will be composers John McCabe, Timothy Bowers and Fraser Trainer (all great Malcolm fans!)  Should be very exciting!

Next, publisher Martin Kingsbury is going to talk about the Faber Years.  Faber Music became Malcolm’s publishers in 1965 and he remained with them for over twenty years.  Martin was intimately involved, as editor, with Malcolm and all his work through some of the most creatively inventive, as well as some of the most turbulent periods of Malcolm’s life.  Symphonies Six, Seven and Eight as well as all the Cornish and Irish works came under Martin’s aegis.  This will be a fascinating talk.

Philip Wood returns to introduce the next recital, which will include some of Malcolm’s wonderful string music.  Central to the concert will be the Fantasy for Cello – a piece that Philip spoke about with great passion at his memorable talk last year on the late works.  Also included will be the Piano Trio, the rarely heard Hobson’s Choice Trio and the Five Pieces for Violin.  It was written for Menuhin who must have delighted in all five and especially the Ballad whichI’ve always thought to be one of Malcolm’s most exquisite melodies. We are delighted to welcome back the brilliant violinist Anna Harpham to lead this concert.

We move to the lovely St Matthew’s Church again for the evening concert and a performance of Malcolm’s Nativity Masque, Song of Simeon.  This is a particular favorite of mine: written in 1959, just before the 4th Symphony and the same year as the Guitar Concerto and Sweeny Todd - it’s a real jeu d’esprit.  The concert will be given by the excellent Elysian Singers directed by Sam Laughton.  There will also be a bit of a new departure here, as we will also hear a couple of short pieces by John McCabe who will be spending the whole weekend with us.

Sunday morning will start with a treat.  The rarely seen 1969 BBC programme, ‘A Portrait of Malcolm Arnold’ which was produced by Herbert Chappell and featured, among others, two of Malcolm’s great friends, John Amis and Julian Bream.  It includes some wonderful footage of Malcolm as conductor.   The Northamptonshire Youth Orchestra will present their now regular orchestral concert and I’m particularly delighted that it will feature a rarely played, but quite magnificent work.  The Divertimento No 2 for orchestra.  Written in 1950, it is Arnold at his most scintillating.  The final movement is a brilliantly scored chaconne – a form much favored by Sir Malcolm.

After lunch we shall have the highly acclaimed Ipswich and Norwich Co op Band to do their stuff.   Arnold for band – how better to digest a good Sunday lunch!  There’s no doubt he felt very comfortable writing for this medium and the concert will include one of the great masterpieces of the genre – The Padstow Lifeboat.

Next is a rather special occasion – a concert that will feature (just about) the complete music for recorder played by one of the countries leading players – John Turner.  Among the works being performed we will hear the unaccompanied Fantasy for Recorder, another marvelous late work originally written for Michala Petri. and the Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet.  John will be accompanied by the strings from the Royal Northern College of Music.  The final (and also rather special) concert of the afternoon will feature our weekend’s special guest John McCabe, this time as concert pianist.  He will be playing the Ukrainian Variations, the piano adaptation of Homage tothe Queen and the colourful Children’s Pieces, as well as a couple of his own works.  A great treat.

Details for the Gala Concert have now been finalised and I’m delighted to announce that it’s going to be a really tremendous Arnold extravaganza! It will include The Flourish for Orchestra, Carnival of Animals and, I’m really exited to say, the Fourth Symphony!

So, book the dates in your diary now!  It should certainly be another weekend to remember.

The box office at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, for the 2009 Malcolm Arnold Festival will be open from 22 July - telephone number 01604 624 811. Or send an e-mail to:


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