This summer Usk Brass Band are contributing to celebrations of the late Sir Malcolm Arnold CBE through a performance of his Little Suite for Brass (No. 1) Op. 80.
Also, on Monday 26th May, a plaque is being unveiled in Padstow in Cornwall in recognition of Sir Malcolm's residence in Cornwall. Unveiled by his daughter Katherine, the ceremony will be accompanied by the St. Austell Band playing a number of Sir Malcolm's works. He lived in Cornwall between 1966 and 1971, and during this time wrote a number of his most well-known pieces, and was honoured by being made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd.
Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) was a major British composer in the 20th century, on a par with Benjamin Britten, and included the composition of nine symphonies and over 100 film scores, such as Bridge over the River Kwai. However, he started out as a brass player, playing trumpet in the London Philharmonic Orchestra during the 1940s, and consequently composing many pieces for brass instruments, ensembles and bands. He is undoubtedly the most well-known classical composer in the brass band world.
Sir Malcolm also went on to live in Ireland for a time, but had strong connections with all Celtic nations of Britain, including Scotland, the Isle of Man and, of course, Wales. Indeed, as a young trumpeter, Sir Malcolm spent time in Llandudno where he played in bands on the town's pier, and composed works in his aunt's house at Capel Garmon. Like many Welsh bands, Usk Brass Band also played in Llandudno in March 2014 at the National Brass Band Championships Welsh Regional Final.
Sir Malcolm's Celtic connections are evident in his compositions, such as Four Scottish Dances Op. 59 (1957), Four Cornish Dances Op. 91 (1966), Severn Bridge Variations (1966), Four Irish Dances Op. 126 (1986), Four Welsh Dances Op. 138a (1988), and A Manx Suite Op. 142 (1990).
A further Celtic connection is that Little Suite for Brass (No. 1)was composed in 1963 for the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland. Since then it has been used around 85 times as a fourth, third and second section test piece at brass band competitions around the world.
Jeff Jones, Usk Brass Band's conductor, says "although Little Suite for Brass is now over 50 years old, it still has a fantastic freshness; and is both challenging for players, and enjoyable and interesting for listeners. I am looking forward to presenting it with the Bandthis summer".
Usk Brass Band is grateful to Fiona Southey (Sir Malcolm Arnold's Personal Manager) for providing the photographs and giving permission to use them in this blog post. Also, to Terry Cushion of the Malcolm Arnold Society.