14 July 2005
Public Orator, Howard Jones
presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Thursday
14 July 2005 at 10.30am
Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor,
Lord Lieutenant, Honorary Graduands, Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen,
“A conductor of genius”
wrote Michael Tanner in the Spectator. This tribute typifies the esteem
in which Paul McCreesh is held. His musical output draws critical acclaim
for quality of performance and originality of interpretation. Reflecting
the rapid growth in his international reputation and the broadening
of his musical canvas, his engagements for the 2004/05 season include
concerts in over a dozen cities across Europe and appearances as a guest
conductor of celebrated orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony.
Paul was born in the East
End of London and experienced, in his own words, “a normal lower-middle
class upbringing”. As a child he learned the cello and this string
playing background would serve him well in the future.
As a student at Manchester
University, Paul encountered early music for the first time. Inspired
by this completely different musical sound, he founded a chamber choir
and period ensemble which would evolve into the Gabrieli Consort and
Players of which he remains artistic director. Paul warmly acknowledges
his debt to this group - “his world class Baroque orchestra”.
They, in turn, relish his inspirational leadership, as coach, captain
and, to continue the sporting metaphor, player manager. Musicians can
lose form, too!
While an undergraduate, Paul
fell in love with singing which, and I quote, “was terribly frustrating
because if I had a decent voice I’d be a singer any day”.
Well, he took compensatory action and married a professional singer,
Susan Hemington Jones. Susan is here today with Paul’s parents.
Beginning to develop his
research into the 17th and 18th century repertoire, Paul kept body and
soul together by teaching music in schools and accepting freelance appointments
such as the Directorship of the Leicestershire Chorale. This fruitful
relationship lasted 6 years, greatly enriching music-making in the county.
Paul and Susan have made their home here with their two children Hannah
The breakthrough for Paul
and the Gabrieli Consort and Players came when they were offered a recording
contract with Deutsche Grammaphon. This association continues to bring
us discs of the highest quality and originality. The first was, memorably,
a reconstruction of a 1643 Venetian festal vespers. The ensemble’s
discography now embraces music by Bach, Gluck and Handel. Tune into
Radio 3 on Sunday evening and you will hear them performing Purcell’s
Fairy Queen at the Proms.
Describing himself as “tough
and sometimes exasperating” Paul predicts that scholars with whom
he now collaborates “will go straight to heaven after the frustration
of working with me - I want complete control over the artistic planning”.
Control freak he may be but this draws its impetus from an utter conviction
that every composer is unique and every composition deserves deep thought
and analysis. We must be thankful for this; it has given us a stream
of performances and recordings which are original, exhilarating and
A conductor of genius? Most
certainly. An interpreter of genius? Yes, that too.
Chancellor, I have the honour
to present to you and the University Mr Paul McCreesh for the degree
of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
the preparation of this speech the following websites were consulted:
www.goldbergweb.com (interview between Paul McCreesh and Paul Robins)
is gratefully acknowledged.