Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 November 2020
Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humour to console him for what he is.attrib. Oscar Wilde
The paths a modern thinker might take in life are various. For musical historians these might include not only teaching, lecturing and research, but also forays into performance and other forms of communication such as commercial recordings and broadcasting. Each requires specific skill sets and specialist knowledge, and it is indeed a rare thing to find all wrapped up in a single person. In terms of music, literature and the performing arts, Christopher Page is surely one of the great artistic polymaths of our generation. The Christian West and its Singers: The First Thousand Years (2010), is arguably his greatest accomplishment to date, and, in attempting to sum up the author, Elizabeth Aubrey hit a perfect mark in observing that only Page could have written this book: ‘not only because of the knowledge and skills he brings to it, but also, perhaps more importantly, because of the imagination that characterises all of his research’ (Journal of the American Musicological Society, 66/1 (2013)). Page's unique and vivid imagination is key to his successes on so many academic and practical fronts. As a man who has spent his life devoted to literature, his chief ambition has always been to keep the imagination working while reading in order to enrich the ability to think creatively. This is evident in all his work.
Page's extensive and wide-ranging output is an impressive testament to his tireless industry. From 1974 to the present day he has produced ten monographs and over sixty book chapters or articles on subjects ranging from the study of musical instruments to a variety of social and musical histories from the first to the eighteenth centuries. As a performer he produced twenty-two highly acclaimed recordings (including three Gramophone Award winners) with his ensemble Gothic Voices, known in concert for their flawless performances interspersed with illuminating and entertaining historical anecdotes by Page himself. Page's natural and seemingly effortless ability to speak to all levels of listeners, whether they be academic peers or students, is both admirable and remarkable. His manner not only inspired new generations of the ‘performer-scholar’ but also, in accordance with the aims of Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, informed, educated and entertained thousands of listeners via the airwaves.
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