Monday 15 December 2014

Malcolm Cottle (1940 - 2014)

Malcolm Cottle
Last weekend (6 December) we lost a dear friend and musical colleague, when the conductor Malcolm Cottle died suddenly at home. I had known Malcolm since 1986, when I sang under his baton in London Concord Singers 20th anniversary concert in a typically eclectic Malcolm programme which included Mozart's Requiem, Mendelssohn's 4-choir motet Hora Est and Giles Swayne's challenging Missa Tiburtina. In the Mendelssohn, singing in choir three with just one other inexperienced tenor I felt rather out of my depth and certainly knew we'd gone wrong when I realised Malcolm was bellowing our tenor part during the performance.

Since then I have sung regularly with London Concord Singers, enjoying the sheer breadth and eclecticism of Malcolm's taste in programming. Also his chutzpah in doing works like Michael Ball's Sainte Marye Virgine, Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden (in the unaccompanied version) and Schnittke's Choir Concerto. This latter work we sang twice and I am not sure that on either occasion did we quite have all lines covered for the section where the work splits into 32 parts, but it was a truly amazing experience. In all these works Malcolm demonstrated his remarkable ear for picking out errors in complex textures.

I also sang under Malcolm's baton with the Latin Mass choir at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan Street, Chelsea where Malcolm was the organist for 25 years. This wasn't the full extent of his musical activities, which also included being musical director at a Synagogue as well as repetiteur at a dance school.

Malcolm was a great supporter of my own compositional efforts. I first knew Malcolm when I was still moving away from writing cabaret to more classical choral music and Malcolm's support developed into something concrete when London Concord Singers gave the premiere of my Three Prayers in 1993. He would go on to perform a remarkable amount of my music not only with the London Concord Singers, but with St Mary's Latin Mass choir, the Salomon Orchestra and as musical director of Garrett on my first opera, Garrett. That he wasn't quite as unflappable as his demeanour sometimes suggested was revealed when he commented that conducting the premiere of some of my orchestral works with the Salomon Orchestra was responsible for him taking up smoking again.

Malcolm will be much missed both as a musical colleague and as a friend, post-rehearsal visits to the pub will never be quite the same again.

This Thursday 18 December 2014, London Concord Singers will be performing their Christmas concert at St Botolph without Bishopsgate, where the conductor Matthew Collins has bravely stepped in at the last minute to conduct the programme as planned by Malcolm - John Tavener's Svyati, Richard Rodney Bennett's A Farewell to Arms, Robert Hugill Faith, Hope and Charity for cello and cello, plus music by Bernard Hughes, Tom Hewitt-Jones, Otto Nicolai, Victoria, Palestrina and Scheidt.

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