The Official Malcolm Arnold Festival 2017

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Letter from the Artistic Director, Paul Harris


Paul Harris

The 12th Malcolm Arnold Festival

October 14th and 15th at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton


Paul Harris reveals some of this years' very special events…

Welcome to the 12th Malcolm Arnold Festival! We’ve called it ‘Abounding in singable tunes’ – a wonderful description of Malcolm’s music from a 1950s newspaper review. He was always determined to write tunes 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 14th at 10:30am at our regular venue, the wonderful Royal & Derngate in Northampton, with the legendary David Mellor. A huge supporter, who was indeed responsible for Malcolm’s knighthood. He will be following in the footsteps of Nigel Hess, Hayley Mills, Robert Hardy, Tim Rice, John Wallace and all our other distinguished ‘launchers’! The Launch concert will include a performance of The Return of Odysseus and the Scottish Dances played by the Glasgow Philharmonia under their award winning conductor, Ross Gunning.

At 12.15 we will be presenting, for the first time in precisely 60 years, a live performance of the radio play, ‘Mr Pye: An Island’. It’s the only radio play Malcolm wrote incidental music for and is going to be a real revelation. Should be quite an event!

We then move for our annual visit to St Matthews, for our afternoon ‘Family concert’ this year at 3pm. Again with the Glasgow Philharmonia Orchestra, who will be joined by one of the world’s greatest harmonica players, Philip Achille, who will be giving a very rare performance of Malcolm’s Harmonica Concerto. The concert will also include a new commission from the great Timothy Bowers, a Phil-Harmonica concerto for Philip and massed young harmonica players. The concert will also include the St Trinian’s Suite and other delighted. Not to be missed!

At 5.30 we will be joined, for the second time by the very fine Rushden Brass Band. Malcolm’s first teacher Frank Burton and indeed Malcolm himself, both played in the Rushden Band. Their programme will include many Arnold favourites.

In the evening, the excellent Jenny Dyson returns with her Quintet to present a programme intriguingly entitled, ‘Malcolm and the War Years’. This will combine some of Malcolm’s fascinating early chamber music with other very important composers, including Oliver Messiaen.

Sunday morning begins with an interview with the legendary Dame Monica Mason, who will be talking to Tony Meredith about Malcolm and particularly his ballet music. This will be followed by our usual superb concert by the young Northampton County players. They will be including both of the lovely Little Suites and music from Homage to the Queen.

After lunch, John Griff presents ‘The Forgotten Documentaries Part 2’ where we shall hear more of Malcolm’s virtually unknown music. This will be followed by the return of Claire Thompson, who will perform a concert of all Malcolm’s serious vocal music.

At 5pm, we are delighted to welcome Ben Palmer and the Janus Ensemble, who will be giving us a rare performance of Malcolm’s Symphony for Strings as well as the Concertinos for Recorder, Flute and Oboe. All works new to the Malcolm Arnold Festival.

We are absolutely delighted to welcome back the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for our Gala concert in a mostly Arnold programme. John Gibbons will be conducting the first ever concert performance of a new suite of music from Heroes of Telemark. The concert will also include Greig’s piano concerto (maintaining the Norwegian connection) and Malcolm’s superb Symphony no.5.

So all in all a major treat! The Derngate are again offering tickets at fantastically generous prices. So book yours now! (01604 624811)

See you there!


Paul Harris