Standing on the shoulders of my predecessors, I began the final phase of the cataloguing of the Sir Malcolm Arnold Archive in October 2022. With little previous knowledge of his music, apart from the evergreen, catchy ‘Colonel Bogey’ march from the film The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), I was soon immersed in it, navigating my way through the dizzying array of the many genres he wrote for – including the towering symphonies, sublime concertos, ballets, powerful concert works, delicate chamber and choral works and the toe-tapping fun of his feature film music.
The autograph manuscript scores are the most important part of the archive and form the heart of the collection. Thanks to Arnold’s daughter Katherine, who assembled them, Eton is now the most comprehensive repository of Arnold’s autograph scores in the world and apart from the Eton Choir Book, they comprise by far the most important musical resource that College Library holds.
Katherine Arnold viewing her father’s autograph scores at College Library, November 2022
Following the acquisition of the Malcolm Arnold archive in 2021, College Library also acquired the rich complementary resource of the Malcolm Arnold research collection of Alan Poulton in the summer of 2022. Alan was Arnold’s business manager in the early 1980s. He is author of several works on Arnold, including the definitive catalogue of the composer’s prolific output. A past Chairman of the Malcolm Arnold Society, he is now its Honorary Vice-President. Alan’s collection includes Arnold’s music scores, books, photographs, film stills, posters, sound and audio-visual recordings, performance programmes, promotional material and related ephemera. Alan’s collection fills in some gaps in the holdings of Eton’s own holdings of autograph and printed scores. It brings a wealth of additional resources to Eton’s rich vein of Arnold material and I’m looking forward to cataloguing it in the next few months.
Alan has very generously given his time and expertise to helping me to tighten up my arrangement and description of the autograph and printed music scores to make them more accessible to the researchers and scholars we know are looking forward to consulting them. The arrangement, cataloguing and rehousing of the Malcolm Arnold archive was completed at the beginning of February 2023 and the catalogue is now accessible online. Cataloguing of the Poulton collection is expected to be completed in the next few months. This year also marks 30 years since Malcolm Arnold received his knighthood for services to music.
It was fortunate that the timing was right to be able to celebrate the acquisition of the two collections with the Eton Community by placing items from both in a small display in College Library for St Andrew’s day in 2022. This included Arnold’s autograph scores from two of the St. Trinian’s film comedy series – The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954) [MS 921/01/14/04/01] and The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966) [MS 921/01/14/12], cartoons from the original story published by Ronald Searle and related items from Alan Poulton’s collection. The display also coincided with Eton Music Schools Malcolm Arnold Competition on 25 November 2022.
Jill Geber, Project Archivist
This blog has been published in the Spring 2023 edition of Beckus, the newsletter of the Malcolm Arnold Society