The good, the great, and the extra-ordinary at the Royal College of Music

The good, the great, and the extra-ordinary at the Royal College of Music


Professor Colin Lawson, Director of the Royal College of Music has done much to ensure the Royal College of Music remains at the top of the Educational Global Music Landscape. The talent nurtured under his fiscal and creative baton is uncompromising in its excellence.

Beethoven said; “music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents. It is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”. Dramatic words from an artist who loved trees more than people and believed that a great poet is a nation’s most precious jewel. He did well to describe Music this way. Music is an unquantifiable enigma. It is impossible to qualify the sentiments we gain from this most special gift.

In recognition of The Royal College Music’s achievements in this field, HRH The Prince of Wales, in his 27th year as President of the Royal College of Music, conferred honours on leading names in the international music world at its historic Blomfield Building in South Kensington.

The turnout for this annual event, on March 3rd 2020, was impressive and deserved. The recipients’ backgrounds and achievements were recognised as contributors to the College’s astounding reputation. Many areas were recognised; from the RCM’s Finance Director Jas Rooprai to an 88-year fan Ken Goodwin, through to honorary doctorate recipients, conductor Sir Antonio Pappano, and tenor Jonas Kaufmann.

Prince Charles looked extremely relaxed in this musical arena, a field he obviously loves. He supports the College each year, showing enthusiasm, grace, charm and wit in his role of President.

The RCM Brass musicians played a majestic fanfare with great verve and passion when the Prince entered the Hall. They gave a flawless performance with the brass section raising the roof of the auditorium in celebration of his arrival. The whole borough must have heard it. A great start to the honorands….

The recipients were warmly welcomed.

Sir Antonio Pappano, conductor and music director of the Royal Opera House has nurtured many former students as they progress from the RCM Opera Studio on to the professional stage. He commented; ‘I never would have thought from taking my Grade 1 music exam as a youngster, that I’d one day be receiving a doctorate from a world-renowned institution such as the Royal College of Music. Having this honour bestowed on me is humbling yet brings me such joy. Thank you.’

Jonas Kaufmann, described by the New York Times as ‘the most important, versatile tenor of his generation’, rose to fame through his spinto roles, most notably at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He has won four Gramophone Awards for his operatic albums, of which Pappano conducted Verismo Arias, winning the Recital Award in 2011. So much talent in one human being is humbling.

Fellows of the RCM Music were; Director of English National Opera Martyn Brabbins, Grammy-nominated composer, Classic FM’s Composer in Residence and RCM Visiting Professor Debbie Wiseman OBE and Academy-Award-winning composer Rachel Portman OBE. Portman was the first female composer to win an Academy Award in the category of Best Musical or Comedy Score (for Emma in 1996). Rachel was the first woman to receive the Richard Kirk Award at the BMI Film & TV Awards for her contributions to film and television music.

Rachel said ‘I feel extremely humbled to be receiving this honour from the Royal College of Music. To be included alongside such esteemed giants of composers and musicians whose ranks I could only dream of aspiring to join is a very great honour.’

Debbie Wiseman said; ‘As musician I held this conservatoire in high esteem, and now I have been privileged to work here as a Visiting Professor. First-class music education is the bedrock of any classical musician’s career, and I’m so proud to be associated with a college that offers the very best music education a young musician could possibly hope for. I feel extremely humbled to receive this honour from the Royal College of Music.’

88-year-old Ken Goodwin, a devoted supporter of the Royal College of Music has attended hundreds of RCM events. He was so enamoured with the music, building and people he never stopped coming back. Raised as a herdsman he went on to become an engineer for British Aerospace. He is an ardent lover of music and travels into London regularly from his home in Hertfordshire to attend RCM concerts.

Other honorands included jazz trumpeter Mark Armstrong, pianist Elizabeth Burley, harpsichord player Terry Charlston, horn player Simon Raynor and acclaimed international pianist Kathryn Stott.

Performances by award recipients included Mezzo-soprano Emily Sierra, who won the President’s Award, harpist Bethan Griffiths, pianist Roelof Temmingh and percussionist Jess Wood.
Jess Wood filled the auditorium with a vast and powerful sound piece produced on a solo drum interjecting the rhythm with unique vocal sounds. Astonishingly brave and creative, I held my breath lest I missed a second of it…

Professor Colin Lawson CBE, Director of the Royal College of Music told the guests; ‘The President’s visit is always a significant moment in the Royal College of Music’s calendar and this year we honour some exceptional musicians, including some of the biggest names in the world of opera, and two of the foremost film and TV composers of our generation. I hope our talented students continue to be inspired by the wonderful musicians we honour each year and aspire to reach similar heights of musical success.’

The Prince previewed the newly-built Royal College of Music Museum home to an internationally collection of musical instruments and music-related art which opens in summer 2020. Here HRH heard Augustin Cornwall-Irving, a David Laing Scholar studying with Jakob Lindberg, perform from the original autographed manuscript of the Welde Lute Book, an important 17th century collection of English lute works on long-term loan to the RCM Library.

The RCM is indeed our nation’s very precious jewel.

About author