John M. Mackenzie - Blog



DERBY EVENING TELEGRAPH: "Composer over the moon at legend's letter"

John MacDonald Mackenzie, who lives in White Street, composed a tune called Neil Armstrong´s March Over the Moon shortly after watching images of the Apollo 11 mission´s successful landing on a black and white television in 1969. Mr Mackenzie then sent a copy of the score of the tune to Neil Armstrong in America.

He replied with a thank-you letter in which he described the tune, which was written for bagpipes, as "moon music." The letter, sent on December 11, 1970, reads in full: "Thank you for your recent letter and "moon" music. It was most kind of you to provide me with a copy of your composition and I am very grateful. "Please accept my sincere thanks for your thoughtful gesture."

The letter is signed by Neil Armstrong, Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, Office of Advanced Research and Technology.

The astronaut died two weeks ago, aged 82. Mr Mackenzie, who moved to Derby from Scotland with wife Annele more than 40 years ago, said: "It was very exciting watching the moon landing and it´s amazing that they managed it. "My parents had said that man would land on the moon but thought it wouldn´t be in their lifetimes, but it was. It was a much more important event than people think. I composed the piece just after the landing – I was playing in the British Legion band in Mickleover at the time – but I didn´t send it to him straight away. Quite a few pipers liked to play it at the time. I didn´t really know if Neil Armstrong would send me a reply or not. It was a real surprise. His signature looks very flamboyant and you would think he would be quite a controlled person."

Mr Mackenzie, who has been composing since an early age, wrote a piece for string quartet to celebrate the reopening of the Derby Museum Art Gallery in February, for which he won an award. He wrote The Orrery for String Quartet after spending a extensive amount of time studying the paintings of Joseph Wright, taking particular inspiration from his celebrated work The Orrery. Mr Mackenzie, who is a member of the Central Composers´ Alliance, said: "I basically lived in the art gallery for a time – looking at the paintings."

The Apollo 11 moon landing of July 20, 1969, was broadcast live to a worldwide TV audience of 500 million people. Neil Armstrong – an astronaut, aerospace engineer, US Navy test pilot and university professor – and his fellow astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, had all made space flights before the mission, making Apollo 11 only the second all-veteran flight in space history.

Upon his return to Earth, Armstrong said he had in fact uttered "one small step for a man" rather than the immortal phrase "one small step for man" as he had stepped out on to the moon´s surface.

He was buried in a private ceremony in August and a memorial service was broadcast live from the Washington National Cathedral in September 2012.

Courtesy of the Derby Evening Telegraph, Friday, September 07, 2012