It has been announced that John Maxwell Geddes, one of Scotland’s most influential composers, is to receive a posthumous honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow.
Geddes, who died in September last year, has been given the rare honour of a posthumous Doctor of Music. Confirmation of the award comes just days before a Memorial Concert in Renfield St John’s Church in Glasgow’s west end, near where the composer lived.
More than 50 professional musicians, all of whom were taught, mentored or inspired by Geddes, will travel from around the globe – from Hong Kong, Ireland, Peru, plus many from England and Scotland – collectively journeying over 27,000 miles to play in the concert on Sunday 29 April.
Geddes’ cellist daughter, Nicola, who travels from the west coast of Ireland to perform in this extraordinary event explained:
‘We do this to honour a man whose influence on our lives was profound. John Maxwell Geddes was a composer, conductor and educator whose energy and enthusiasm were an inspiration to many. But more than that, he was a great Dad.
‘As a prolific writer he leaves behind him a vast musical legacy. For those of us who loved him, his legacy is also an energy of creativity, humour and compassion that we carry with us in our lives.’
Sunday’s concert will showcase a wide range of Geddes’ music. Bill Sweeney, a fellow composer and Professor of Music at Glasgow University, who has known Geddes since the early 60s, said:
‘My first impression of John’s work was a fascination with his instrumental gestures and colours, then after a while the realisation that there was a real intellectual drive to the music.
‘His style was an encounter between post-war modernism and Scottish traditions – but never just ‘putting a kilt on it’; there was always a web of vivid allusion, formal dexterity and a sense of humour that could break through the dark clouds of serious symphonic thought.’
After John’s death in September, the Geddes family and their American friends, Dr Hal Peterson and his wife Geri, launched a programme to assist aspiring composers in Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish Music Centre. The first recipient of the Geddes Peterson Foundation Award is classical accordionist and composer Aileen Sweeney, a 23-year-old Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate. Her new award winning work will be premiered at the Geddes Memorial Concert this Sunday.