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Encomium for Sir Malcolm Arnold at the time of the award of an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Northampton

Vice Chancellor, insofar as the Council and Senate of the University of Northampton have seen fit to establish Honorary Doctorates to confer on eminent individuals who have contributed to the work and development of the University, to the life and culture of the community and to the interests and improvement of education, I today present to the Chairman one on whom the Council and Senate have determined to confer such a Doctorate.

I am privileged to present to you Sir Malcolm Arnold for an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Northampton.

Sir Malcolm, you are without doubt one of the most versatile, prolific and fluent composers of the 20th Century, an achievement which has been widely recognised through your award of CBE in 1970, a Knighthood in 1993, the Ivor Novello Award for outstanding services to British music in 1986, and the Award, in 2001, of a Fellowship of the British Academy for Composers and Songwriters.

You were born in Northampton into a musical family and were much influenced by your mother, a pianist who no doubt was delighted at the impact of your listening, as a 12 year old, to Louis Armstrong playing the trumpet during a family holiday at the Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth; you took up the trumpet immediately! You soon afterwards won a scholarship at the age of 16 to the Royal College of Music and joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as second trumpet at the tender age of 18, shortly to be promoted to Principal Trumpet.

Your serious playing career finished from 1948 when you began to compose at a great rate, and, from the early 1960s, you were in great demand as a conductor of your compositions, whether in the concert hall, the recording studio or for the film set.

The great variety of your works, Sir Malcolm was often influenced, particularly in later years, by the environment in which you lived. In Cornwall, for example, your Cornish Dances and the Padstow Lifeboat reflected your commitment to Cornish musical life. An Irish flavour resonates though your 2nd String Quartet and Seventh Symphony, both written during your period in Dublin in the 1970s. The diversity of your output is very well reflected through the range of compositions in your “Norfolk” period from 1984 until today. A Fantasy for Recorder was followed in quick succession by Irish Dances, your very profound Ninth Symphony, dedicated to Anthony Day, and a Cello Concerto, written for Julian Lloyd Webber.

Indeed, I was astonished when I looked through the catalogue of your works. I saw Concertos for cello, clarinet, flute, guitar, harmonica, horn, oboe, organ, recorder, trumpet, saxophone, viola, for two, not one, pianos and similarly for violins; you scored fantasies for a number of these instruments; there were overtures, preludes, sinfoniettas, sonatas and suites, quartets and quintets; dances - not just Cornish, but Irish, Scottish and Welsh, and, of course, songs and ballet music, concert suites, Royal music and even the setting of a Psalm. And, of course I found your 9 symphonies (as well as your Symphonies for Brass and Strings) and listings of famous music for films, including Bridge on the River Kwai and the Inn of the Sixth Happiness. I know I have not done justice to the range, depth and quality of your music!

Sir Malcolm, you have made a major contribution to the musical and cultural life of the last 70 years or so through your playing, composing and conducting; you have empathised with the communities in which you have lived and worked; you have enriched the lives of many who have been touched by your music in so many genres, whether as players and singers (professionals and amateurs alike), live audiences, radio CD and MP3 listeners, or film and television viewers. As we celebrate and congratulate you on your 85th birthday in October, and look forward to the launch of the hopefully annual Malcolm Arnold Festival in that month at Northampton’s refurbished Royal and Derngate Theatres, the University pays tribute to you as a great 20th Century British composer and influence on the development of music.

And so, in accordance with the decision of the Council and Senate, I present to you Sir Malcolm Arnold, that you may confer an Honorary Doctorate.

Chairman, Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor

Acceptance speech by Fiona Southey – Personal Manager on behalf of Sir Malcolm

On behalf of Sir Malcolm Arnold I would like to thank you, the Council and the Senate for the great honour you afford him in conferring this Honorary Doctorate

Sir Malcolm is most happy to be welcomed to the Faculty of this dynamic and modern university. International in its orientation, yet with a strong sense of its roots within the local community, the university enriches the lives of all those who wish to benefit from higher education and the excellence within its academic body.

Sir Malcolm is a Northampton man born and bred and it is with great pride that he accepts this Honorary Doctorate, conferred upon him by the University of Northampton.

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