Rhinegold Photo credit: Sussie Ahlburg
Anthony Marwood

Andrew Green

Musical New Year’s honours list dominated by men

9:10, 4th January 2018

In a male-dominated musical New Year’s Honours list, pride of place must go to the CBE for 90-year-old Lilian Hochhauser, one half of the legendary husband-and-wife team which has been bringing prime Russian (as well as Chinese and Israeli) performers to the UK since what seems like the dawn of time. David Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Sviatoslav Richter were among their charges in the past, but defying anno domini, Ms Hochhauser masterminded last summer’s visit to Covent Garden by the Mariinsky Ballet. Among all the messages of congratulation to reach her, two words have recurred, she says: ‘About time!’ Will she now carry on with the job? ‘I should say so! Communication through culture is so important.’

Among performers themselves, the MBE for ever-enterprising violinist Anthony Marwood catches the eye. He tells CM: ’I’d just had my first experience of performing the Beethoven concerto without a conductor in Melbourne when the news came through via email—I was in a taxi! At first glance I thought the email was spam and nearly deleted it! I’m very touched and delighted to receive this honour, and thankful for all the inspiring mentors and collaborators I’m lucky enough to work with.’

Cheek-by-jowl with that let’s place the MBE for effervescent founder of the ground-breaking London Community Gospel Choir, Bazil Meade. An intended one-off concert 35 years ago turned into an amazing journey into national and international recognition via concerts, tv appearances and album after album. If Twitter reaction is anything to go by, this might just be the most popular NYH award of the century.

A performer, yes, but musical polymath is the only way to describe Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, whose position as the hugely valued principal of the Royal Academy of Music is but the cornerstone of an extraordinarily varied career which thus far has also embraced, for example, 250 commercial recordings in the role of producer and ten solo trumpet albums. Freeman-Attwood receives a CBE, while John Sloboda, research professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama specialising in music psychology, receives an OBE. The honour, says Sloboda, ‘…celebrates the growing prominence of music psychology as a valued component of musical education and professional practice in the UK and the wider world.’

Three conductors renowned for their work with large-scale amateur forces had their work recognised in the NYH. Twenty years after founding the Solway Sinfonia, conductor Geoffrey Keating received a BEM which also recognised the charitable dimension to his work. Conductor Michael Bell’s MBE came soon after his Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra had celebrated its 35th birthday, prompting memories from him of its first concert—at St David’s Cathedral—in 1982: ‘I remember feeling so nervous beforehand that I thought I was going to be sick in the font.’

Another MBE goes to choral director David Temple, renowned for having fallen in love with high level amateur singing from a standing start…and then daring to teach himself to conduct. The multi-dimensional success of his Crouch End Festival Chorus is testament to what a mix of daring and determination can achieve. ‘I was shocked when the letter informing me of the MBE arrived,’ he says. ‘I assumed it was a traffic offence notice or an impending tax inspection! I accept the award as a musical collaborator and dedicate it to all the musicians who regularly perform under my direction and to all the composers I commission who create such inspiring music.’

Jazz was among the range of other musics recognised in the NYH, including the MBE for Nigel Tully, 74 year-old chief executive (and board chairman) of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Tully greeted the news as ‘a great thing for jazz as well as the NYJO. I hope it will add weight to our ongoing campaign to achieve the same levels of recognition, funding and infrastructure for jazz as are enjoyed by other art forms.’ Meanwhile, the world of the male voice choir came into the spotlight via the MBE for John Larke, long-time singer with the City of Truro Male Voice Choir and founder/director of a longstanding international men’s choral event in Cornwall.

Other awards for engagement in locally based music-making include the MBE for Glenys Hughes, collaborator with Peter Maxwell Davies on the St Magnus Festival in the Orkneys, and since her retirement as festival director an untiring fundraiser for music-making in Malawi. An MBE also for Martin Cooke, for his quiet, persuasive and ineffably good-humoured behind-the-scenes work for music and the arts in the North-West of England and in Cornwall—notably chairing the Chester Summer Music Festival and the summer St Endellion Festival. ‘Totally surprised at the award,’ says Cooke. ‘My wife and I of course had to keep it secret, but finally at Christmas we told the family we were having a celebratory meal…and when they arrived made them try and guess why. They couldn’t!’

One of the pleasures of sifting through the NYH is bumping into the less-expected. So it is that this time around due attention must go to the BEMs for bellringers Thomas Metcalfe (Cumbria) and Bryan Birkett (Nottinghamshire)…and the same award for Pipe Majors William Matheson (from Nairn in the Moray Firth) and Hamish Dean of the Huntly and District Pipe Band in Aberdeenshire. Hamish’s self-effacing comment after 55 years of service: ‘It’s nice that the band is doing so well and that younger faces are keeping it going.’

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