This photo shows one of those ‘did this really happen?’ moments. My singer friend and colleague of many years, Frances Lynch, is pictured giving a short, succinct address about my work to an audience in the Grosvenor Ballroom which included, as Ivor Award presenters and recipients, Elton John, Boy George, Bob Geldof, Ed Sheeran, the Manic Street Preachers, Black Sabbath, Kylie Minogue, Alison Moyet and Annie Lennox. (Fran went on the present me, as she had been tasked, with the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music – thanks, BASCA, for pointing out, during an occasion like this, that ‘classical’ composers still exist.)
‘The Ivors’ are songwriting awards, and hearing all the acceptance speeches, it became clear in what high regard the skill of songwriting is held in pop music circles; it’s obvious that you can’t on the whole become famous and successful in this field from performing covers of other people’s songs (which is arguably what a large part of the classical music profession does). New material is constantly needed.This interested me, because when teaching or seeing the portfolios of composition students at conservatoires, I notice that almost none of them write songs. It seems to me unwise both on a professional basis (we now have a fantastic generation of classically trained singers who are more than able to read and sing ‘modern music’) and on a musical one. There’s something very dynamic about the song form; a 3-4 minute construction which progressively gains expressive power via a couple of simple structural changes. It’s a good basis for many kinds of composition.
Bearing in mind the above, it was a notable coincidence that both the remarkable artists in the afternoon’s final ‘act’ (Elton John’s presentation of a BASCA Fellowship to Annie Lennox, the first woman to receive one) had attended the Royal Academy of Music. That institution should really try to install Sir Elton as Professor of Songwriting; I loved his knowledgeable address, which began with the words ‘When I went to hear Dusty Springfield at the Harrow Granada in 1961…’ To which Annie Lennox countered that her own songwriting heroines had been Carole King and Janis Joplin. It gave a buzz to the conclusion of this somewhat male-dominated occasion to hear the names of several great women artists (including Lennox herself) accorded due significance.