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Sir Malcolm Arnold and the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra

The Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra is very proud to have Sir Malcolm Arnold as its Patron.  The story of Sir Malcolm’ association with the BPO goes back to the early 1980’s, though the BPO had programmed the first set of English Dances as early as 1964.  In 1983, the BPO’s first patron, the great conductor Sir Adrian Boult, died at the age of 93.  Naturally, there was a desire for a musician of at least equal stature in British musical life to succeed him, and by luck, John Franklin, then chairman of the orchestra (and still its principal flute) was friends with the pianist Alan Poulton.  Alan was, at the time, working closely with Sir Malcolm, and the invitation was issued through Alan Poulton for Sir Malcolm to become Patron of the BPO.  The orchestra was naturally delighted when the invitation was accepted.

The duties of the Patron are light and honorific, but Sir Malcolm did attend performances, and also attended the Silver Jubilee dinner of Kenneth Page, the BPO’s Musical Director, at the Birmingham City Art Gallery.  Recent contact has been much sparser, mainly on account of Sir Malcolm’s advancing years, but the association remains very much valued by the BPO, and we programme his works on a regular basis.  Peterloo, Tam O’Shanter and the Cornish Dances, in the programme for the BPO’s tribute concert have been firm favourites, and we have also performed English and Scottish dances, Beckus the Dandipratt, and the second symphony.  The breadth of Sir Malcolm’s oeuvre also meant that in a recent programme of film music we were able to include the hilarious Belles of St Trinian’s suite, to everyone’s delight.

And so, we honour our Patron in his 85th year with a full programme of his music – not just the favourites mentioned above, but The Smoke, a rarity in the concert halls, and the much admired fifth symphony, arguably his greatest.  From the BPO, we offer three cheers for Sir Malcolm Arnold, and long may our association continue.

Chris Bertram

Secretary, Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra

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