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arnold northampton book
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Rooted in Northampton
The Arnolds and the Haweses - Malcolm Arnold’s family tree
by Alan Poulton
Published 2021
190 pages
ISBN-13: 979-8745128936
Malcolm Arnold Society

The span of literature covering aspects of a composer’s life and music is one gauge of that composer’s reputation and the enthusiasm or fanaticism attracted by his or her music. There are other indicators – some of them more obvious: concerts, broadcasts, recordings, concert festivals, existence of a Society, even the issue of stamps. You can also trace a composer in ‘the charts’ by the number of very early works that have been revived, or sometimes those post-mortem completions or realisations of works that have been left incomplete or newly arranged for larger or smaller forces. There are plenty of examples of composers who have attracted this sort of project: Shostakovich, Elgar, Finzi, Vaughan Williams.

Back to books: composer societies’ journals, newsletters and fanzines can be an outlet for articles on narrow or specialist subjects. Then again, no matter how popular the composer, the range of fixated or curious admirers may justify a book covering such subjects: friends and lovers of the composer, conductors and musicians who championed the music, prose and poetry that they loved and by which they may have set or been inspired, houses and towns in which they lived or worked, their illnesses and landscape connections Themed holidays, walks and talks may proliferate. Most usually these things come on stream after the composer has died but not always.

Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) has his own Society who keep the flag flying with a full beaufort scale force. Then again there’s the splendid annual Arnold Festival in Northampton which feeds the faithful and those who listen and pursue his music with more intensity.

Malcolm Arnold’s parents were William Arnold and Annie Hawes (no relation to neglected composer Jack Hawes). Along with at least two other fine composers (Rubbra and Alwyn) Arnold was born and brought up in Northampton. The Hawes side of the family were musical and Annie’s great-grandfather was William Hawes and in fact introduced Weber’s Der Freischütz to England. There were other musical links on that side while daughter Maria, who was a singer, inspired the alto part in Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

Annie’s aunt and cousins also married into some important Northampton families: the Ratliffes, who were brewers, the Mulliners, who were car makers, and the Rays, who were Mayor and Mayoress in 1928-29. Alan Poulton has collected together a large amount of information and photos from newspapers and other sources to detail the lives of these ancestors of Malcolm Arnold. They give an impression of life in Northampton over the centuries and introduce us to some of the personalities who influenced the development of the town and who form the backdrop to Malcolm Arnold’s early years. On the way, we meet bankruptcy and libel, business successes and failures, philanthropic endeavours, royal visits and mayoral elections, local politics and church officialdom, to say nothing of the musical achievements of the Arnold and Hawes families. Paragraphs of vignettes of the Hawes line are included.

This book addresses, in style and with plentiful photographs and document extracts, a recondite subject and does it with every appearance of being definitive.

Rob Barnett

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