Royal Philharmonic Society


Awards ceremonies aren’t generally my thing, but with a pleasing symmetry, my work doesn’t usually feature in them, and I don’t have to go. So when invited to hand over the trophies at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, I enjoyed an unusual fly-on-the-platform view of this gilded occasion. Of course the serious announcing work was in the hands of two excellent presenters, Petroc Trelawny and Georgia Mann (pictured), who were kept very busy with around fifteen awards to be trailed on video, talked about, and thanked for. As the hours passed, and with Petroc’s very early morning shift on Radio 3 Breakfast coming progressively into view, the speakers impressively picked up speed, reaching almost horse-race commentator velocity for the final prize.

As is often the case, a shortlist for each category had been revealed earlier, with the winner to be announced on this evening. Hearing the outcomes (with only half an ear, while I and Lois, my helpful white-gloved assistant, searched for the next trophy) it seemed to me that the musical profession was once again expressing its innate conservatism. Interestingly left-field shortlistees (Raymond Yiu, Silvina Milstein, the Dunedin Consort) were being passed over in favour of the more familiar (Rattle and the LSO, Jurowski, Turnage – all of them outstanding, and deserving of their awards of course.)

Meanwhile, the concept of diversity was being constantly referenced throughout the evening’s announcements, not least in a speech by Nicholas Serota, which explained the Arts Council’s views in quite some detail. What a pleasure that the rare award of an RPS Gold Medal was then made (via a presentation in New York, filmed on video) to Jessye Norman, that unique artist and human being, expressing her beliefs in irresistible style; poetic, aspirational and joyous. Also most welcome was the gift of a beautiful rose bowl to Rosie Johnson, whose 20-year stint as director has made the RPS the genial, forward-looking institution we know today.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020