Never meet your heroes, they say. But if you grew up with classical music in the 1980s, there was fat chance of that. Stravinsky, Britten, Shostakovich, Walton: you’d just missed them. Which is why, in 2001, and finding myself duty-managing an 80th birthday concert for Sir Malcolm Arnold, I inched past his minders and delivered a few trite, polite but entirely sincere words of gratitude and admiration. No response: Sir Malcolm stared blankly ahead. Then he gripped my hand, and started shaking. And kept shaking, faster and faster, his grip tightening like a vice. Raising his head slightly, and pumping my hand with increasing force, he growled: ‘I’m not letting go until you call me Sir.’
In truth, it was reasonably widely known by then that Arnold was no longer ‘all there’.