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Thursday 14 July 2005

 

Paul McCreesh

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 and Sam.

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 musically ravishing.

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.


During the preparation of this speech the following websites were consulted:
jford@intermusica.co.uk
www.goldbergweb.com (interview between Paul McCreesh and Paul Robins)
www.mcmaestro.org.uk

This is gratefully acknowledged.

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Loughborough University - Degree Speeches 2005

H.D.McCullam@lboro.ac.uk, July 2005
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