Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

John Maxwell Geddes (1941-2017)

3:10, 7th September 2017

Composer John Maxwell Geddes has died following a short illness.

His music – which included pieces for orchestra, ensemble, solo, arrangements of folk songs and transcriptions of Renaissance music – was often informed by his interest in history, archaeology, astronomy and science fiction. His best-known works include Voyager (1985), Alley Cat (2004) and A Castle Mills Suite (2014).

According to the Scottish Music Centre: ‘Geddes [was] essentially a composer in the symphonic tradition, and his most impressive work [was] written for orchestral forces, although not necessarily in symphonic form or length. His early work revealed a rather tense, almost nervous undercurrent but he has subsequently grown more expansive, while his latest works foretell a growing suggestion of a near-mystical sense of serenity.’

Born in Glasgow in 1941, Geddes studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) under Gordon Cameron and Frank Spedding. He won the RSAM Prize in composition and a scholarship which enabled him to study with Niels Viggo Bentzon at the Royal Danish Conservatoire in Copenhagen.

Geddes has lectured on his work in institutions around the world, and has been composer in residence in Hamburg and Berlin (World Brass) and Bremen (Internationales Jugend Symfoniorchester). His association with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra spanned more than 50 years, producing works including his first symphony (1975) and An Ayrshire Suite (2012).

He has been the recipient of many commissions and awards, including the Goethe Institute stipendium (1986), PRS’s Composer in Education Award (1991), and Lord Provost of Glasgow’s Commendation for the Performing Arts (2002). He was made a Fellow of the RSAMD in 2002, and in 2007 became one of the few composers to be presented with the Creative Scotland Award.

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