Live Music is…

RPS Executive Director, Rosie Johnson ponders what makes live music, and the RPS Music Awards, so special.

…contemplative, challenging, restorative, shared.

I nearly missed out on classical music. From a very early age my parents regularly took me to services at Canterbury Cathedral where my elder brothers were choristers. I was intoxicated by the music that I heard them sing, hugely impressed by the ritual and, let’s be honest, the idea of boarding school.

I just assumed that I would follow in their footsteps. When it was explained that I didn’t fit the brief, I came to a simple and, from my perspective, rather devastating conclusion: classical music was for boys.

It is easy to feel excluded from classical music….

Square_Cornwall_Live_Concert_(c)_Philharmonia

….sometimes it’s the language used to describe it, or musical one-upmanship, where those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of repertoire or performance history are deemed unable to fully appreciate what they hear. And sometimes, there are more fundamental barriers: economic, social, cultural, disability… or (and it seems surprising to be writing this in the 21st century) being born a girl. And yet, music is the most embracing of art forms, and live music, by offering bespoke, yet collegiate experiences to both audiences and performers, is the most inclusive of the lot.

The winners of this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards will be announced on Tuesday 9 May. This awards ceremony is the only time each year that we celebrate the transformative, joyous experience of live music in the UK, in all its variety; those wondrous fleeting moments that are gone in a minute, but linger in the mind forever. And it’s this transient quality, a uniqueness that comes from unrepeatable listening, that sets live performance apart from recorded music. Recordings can capture that moment in time, but by allowing us to repeat it, over and over, a little of the magic of ‘liveness’ is lost….”

Read the full blog on BBC Music Magazine

More about the RPS Music Awards

#LiveMusicIs on twitter

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Clare Hammond on her Experience with the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme

Renowned tenor Philip Langridge was a staunch member and Council member of the Royal Philharmonic Society until his untimely death in March 2010. Endlessly positive and energetic, and passionate about communication through performance, he often spoke about what the RPS could do to extend its support for musicians entering the profession.

At Philip’s suggestion the RPS began discussions with the Young Classical Artists Trust (another organisation of which he was a trustee) to explore ways in which established musicians could pass on their wisdom and experience to those just starting out in the profession. The seeds of an idea for mentoring musicians were sewn and the RPS and YCAT launched the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme in autumn 2010.

Pianist Clare Hammond describes her time on the mentoring scheme…

clare-hammond

After nearly two and a half years, I have come to the end of my mentorship with French pianist Anne Queffélec which I have found fulfilling and inspiring in equal measure. I am very grateful that the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme exists. Most performers spend an enormous amount of time in higher education, and I was no exception. I left the Guildhall School of Music & Drama after completing a Masters and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in 2011 at the ripe old age of 26. Although I continued to have sporadic coaching with different musicians, I felt I needed the time to develop my own voice, without structured guidance. After three years flying solo, however, there were many issues, both musical and personal, that I wanted to discuss with someone who knew me well.

Fortunately, I learnt about the PLMS at exactly the right time. I had been to Anne Queffélec a couple of times for coaching by this point and I knew that she was someone I would like to work with further. She combines a thorough grasp of the practical aspects of playing with astonishing musical imagination and flair. Her performances never fail to surprise and invariably reveal unsuspected possibilities in the works that she plays.

At this point, I tended to specialise in 20th and 21st-century music and had always found repertoire by core composers more challenging. While Anne performs music by a wide range of composers, her repertoire centres on the classics. She was able to explain concepts in Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Chopin that I had understood objectively but had never really managed to put into practice. I am now far less tentative when playing this music and my performances are, as a result, far more engaging and communicative.

On a personal level, the mentorship came at exactly the right time. Establishing oneself as a performer after finishing at a conservatoire is extremely challenging. Anne has helped to give me the musical conviction and determination necessary to do this. I have also recently had a baby and the chance to discuss this with a female pianist who has two children of her own was invaluable.

A mentorship of this kind is of particular importance to musicians setting out on their career after formal education because it can be tailor-made to suit them. By this stage, most people have an idea of the kind of artist they want to become, and what their fields of interest might be. It is particularly helpful to have a mentor’s guidance and advice while these ideas crystallise and take form. I am extremely grateful that I had access to this kind of support which has been of immeasurable help to me at a transitional stage in both my artistic and personal life.

Keep up with Clare’s work on her website clarehammond.com and find out more about the our Mentoring Scheme here

Behind the Scenes at the RPS Music Awards

“The music world is not short of awards ceremonies, but the RPS Music Awards continue to stand alone, the grand-daddy of them all, side-stepping the hysteria as a calm voice of sanity, seriously assessing the true value of music making.” Musical America

The RPS Music Awards – the UK’s most prestigious awards for live classical music – are being lined up once again for a glittering ceremony in May and, some 26 years and 306 individual awards since they started, here’s a glimpse from behind the scenes at the RPS office… 

Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the RPS Music Awards are the highest recognition for live classical music-making in the UK and undoubtedly a highlight of our annual calendar. The planning begins with an open call for nominations across all 13 categories with a submission deadline at the end of January. Every nomination is read and categorised, then makes its way onto a mammoth spreadsheet which becomes the ‘brain’ of the entire process. Between Robin and Megan – our fantastic Administration Assistant and RPS Music Awards Intern respectively – information is requested for every eligible nomination submitted and packs are prepared for each category.

This is always a hugely intense process as, despite a two month window for nominations, I’d estimate that nearly half of them arrive within the final week before the deadline! Meanwhile, Rosie – our Executive Director – will have been lining up industry experts that form the independent juries whose task it is to judge each of the 13 categories.

Group shot of Winners of the RPS Music Awards Photographed at the RPS Music Awards, London, Tuesday 10 May
Group shot of Winners of the RPS Music Awards Photographed at the RPS Music Awards, London, Tuesday 10 May (Image credit: Simon Jay Price)

Jury meetings often begin within two weeks of the nomination deadline, so preparing supporting materials in time for the first meetings is always a challenge, and take place over six weeks in February and March. Some categories carry a heavier workload for the jurors (reviewing books, TV and radio broadcasts or compositions in advance) while others can be sorted through on the day. Armed with the criteria for their category, and remembering the RPS core values of “creativity, excellence and understanding”, the five jury members whittle the nominations down to a shortlist of three (occasionally four), one of which will be chosen as the winner. And it is rarely an easy decision! How long do the jury meetings last? Depends on how much they all agree with each other! The decisions are always taken extremely seriously – I think our record meeting length is six hours – and one year a jury took a week to come back with their final answer!

Next step: announcing the Shortlist. Every year the buzz around this time feels like it gets bigger and bigger. This year’s announcement was on 31st March and it’s fantastic to be able to share the good news with all of the wonderful people and organisations who have been shortlisted. The social media boom certainly has a huge part to play and we were manically tweeting as ever while the shortlist was revealed live on air.

Finally, it comes to the awards themselves. It’s always a wild scramble between the announcement of the Shortlist and the Awards night to ensure that everybody gets there, but somehow it always works out and we have a great time! This year’s winners were announced at the ceremony and dinner on 10th May at The Brewery in the City of London and you can follow the evening’s events by searching #RPSMusicAwards. You can also browse the winners list at rpsmusicawards.com, and find videos, photos and the keynote speech from RPS Honorary Member Graham Vick on our website, social media and YouTube pages.

Laura Bloomfield

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