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Dr Michael Painting: oration

Read Dr Catherine Winnett's oration on Michael Painting for the honorary degree of Doctor of Music in June 2016.


Dr Michael Painting
Dr Michael Painting

It is my privilege and pleasure to have known Michael Painting since 1974, when I was a newly appointed young lecturer and he was a final year undergraduate student of Economics. Michael soon began a PhD in Social and Economic History under the supervision of Professor Angus Buchanan and Dr David Brooke, on an important contribution to the burgeoning subject of Industrial Archaeology, titled: “The development of the gas industry in the Bristol region 1810-1950” which he was awarded in 1980. Michael went on to establish a long career in Bath as a successful and supportive HR Manager, from which he recently retired, though he keeps his links through part-time employment with the University.

Today I am here to acknowledge Michael’s contribution to music, and specifically his development and enhancement of the musical activities, and through them the reputation, of the University.

Michael became involved in music by an unusual route – at home in High Wycombe he tried to join the cub scouts; but the pack was full, and as it was a church-based pack he was steered towards the choir instead. He was trained as a treble by Dudley Holroyd, who was later to be the Director of Music here in Bath Abbey; so it was an obvious progression for him to join the Abbey Choir when he became a student. Dudley Holroyd, Peter King (the Abbey’s current Director of Music) and Martin How of the Royal School of Church Music have clearly been major influences in Michael’s musical development. Over the years Michael has sung countless solos as a tenor, and latterly counter tenor, and has participated in many broadcasts and recordings. He has also arranged and composed music both under his name and that of his pseudonym, Martin Hussingtree.

Michael’s deep knowledge and love of choral music, understanding of performance, and creativity, is his legacy to many generations of students. Without a music department the University appeared destined to be bereft of musical excellence, and Michael had a great belief that things could be changed if a choir matching his own standards were to be formed. And so, Michael, together with fellow student Peter Clucas, established the University Chamber Choir. Michael became its conductor and musical director and has continued his leadership role with the choir, which is about to enter its fortieth year, on an entirely voluntary basis, dedicating an enormous amount of time and energy to rehearsals, planning musical programmes and venues, weekend workshops and concerts. The choir, now of about 35 voices, sings a large and challenging range of choral music within Bath and in the surrounding area.

It is difficult to exaggerate the benefits and opportunities the University Chamber Choir, under a dedicated and inspirational musical director, has given to hundreds of students. Perhaps the most visible contribution of the choir to the musical life of the University is the annual Christmas carol service, inaugurated at the time of the choir’s tenth birthday. This has grown into a high-profile University event attracting a capacity congregation of staff, students and general public in Bath Abbey. The choir has also taken a major part in other significant University events, such as the Silver Jubilee and 40th anniversary celebrations, the installation of three University Chancellors and the installation of the present Vice-Chancellor.

From the choir’s inception, Michael has planned and conducted concerts and recitals in and around Bath, and in cathedrals and churches further afield, as well as leading events in support of Dorothy House, Macmillan Cancer Care and other worthy causes. These have all helped to promote the good name of the University, and its students, in the local community.

Over 40 years Michael has assiduously built a choir of enviable quality and reputation which year on year reaches higher standards of excellence and which has brought pleasure to thousands in audiences and hundreds of performers. It would not exist if it were not for the efforts and sheer determination of one man.

Vice-Chancellor I present to you Michael Painting who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.

Dr Catherine Winnett

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