Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scrumptious scrum at RPS Awards


The Dorchester was packed the other night for the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, a highlight of the UK's music biz calendar, when accolades are given mainly (though not exclusively) to the Best of British - artists and organisations who've made a special impact or had a particularly good year in this country.

Many of the prizes went to highly deserving types, among them soprano Christine Brewer, bass John Tomlinson, conductor Ed Gardner and composer James MacMillan - who won the Opera award, a prize more usually given to a company, but this time was his for The Sacrifice, an extract of which was screened and sounded astonishingly wonderful. The large-scale composition award went to good old Thomas Ades, who sent a slightly spacey video message saying it meant just as much to him now as it did all the other times he's won it. I was especially thrilled to see the Instrumentalist award go to Imogen Cooper, that classiest of classicists who has for so long deserved such recognition and who in terms of artistry can knock the spots of the Grimauds, Lang Langs and Thibaudets any day she likes.

Best of all, we had a visit from Jose Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, along with a video thank-you from Gustavo Dudamel oozing his do-do-do-damel charm, and a speech by Richard Holloway, who is the chairman of the unlikely-but-true Sistema Scotland.

Often the RPS awards can seem too island-based, parochial in the grand scheme of international music-making, and in the past the speaker has often used the opportunity to deliver a catalogue of bile and misery directed against the government, the BBC, or the dumbing-down of whatever the latest thing is to be dumbed...

This time it was different. This was living inspiration: just one person doing something worthwhile about it can change lives, attitudes and possibly the world. Richard Holloway's speech is well worth listening to and you can hear it here. Signor Abreu, meanwhile, received a standing ovation. RPS head honcho Graham Sheffield presented him with honorary membership of the RPS - an accolade first received by Carl Maria von Weber. See pic.

I had a splendid time, though did not wear intended purple silk frock because the weather has turned and it was too darned cold; my black chiffon wrap was nevertheless a success. The dress code, 'Elegant Evening Wear' was a present for the many men in the music business who would prefer to wear...well, something other than black tie - and they blossomed out in Chinese silk jackets laden with gold embroidery, of which Mr Sheffield's was the finest of many.