Archdeacon of West Ham Elwin Cockett on never giving up


- Credit: Archant

I’ve been remembering my old schoolmate, Malcolm.

You probably won’t have known him, and you never will now, because he died recently, in France, after a long illness. He was 56, which is no age these days. And he was a remarkable musician and an international authority on Early Music.

Such achievements would have surprised anyone he was at school with. Malcolm always had a remarkable ability to make people laugh and loved life, but he was no academic. He left school as soon as he could, with a very modest tally of exams and equally modest expectations, if truth be told.

And then something happened. Someone at a local college saw something in him and encouraged him. Within a few years, he had a music degree. And a few years after that, a second degree - a Masters, from Manchester. Then something even more amazing happened. He was in Paris, and a famous playwright heard him playing the piano and invited him to direct the music for his latest play, which he did to critical acclaim. He blossomed in France, turning down the invitation to transfer with the play to Broadway, staying, instead, in the country that would be his home for the rest of his life.

Working with some great musicians he’d met there, he became known as a superb interpreter of medieval music. He performed on numerous CDs and recordings for French radio. Between such engagements, he also became a lecturer on Early Music and a composer in his own right, with great success.

He never forgot who he was. Together, he and his French wife were generous hosts at their home, entertaining a large and eclectic range of friends, including several from his schooldays who miss him enormously.

His story reminds us that we must never give up on people. Even amidst the greatest failure - far worse than a few failed exams - there is hope. As one great Christian said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”. Amen to that.

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