HRH The Prince of Wales today listened to a performance at the Royal College of Music (RCM) of a guzheng, a rare 21-string Chinese zither, given to him during the State Visit by China in 2015, as he honoured outstanding figures in international musical life at the Royal College of Music’s Annual Awards ceremony.
The guzheng will be on loan to the RCM which already houses close to 1,000 extraordinary musical instruments including the earliest dated guitar (from 1581), the earliest known stringed keyboard instrument (a clavicytherium from ca. 1480) and a remarkable collection of English viols from the seventeenth century. The guzheng is an especially fitting gift given the RCM’s recent agreement with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (SHCM) to establish a new Joint Institute in China, the first such partnership of any UK music conservatoire.
HRH The Prince of Wales, President of the Royal College of Music since 1993, presented the guzheng to Professor Colin Lawson, Director of the Royal College of Music, in the presence of representatives from the Chinese Embassy in London. It was played by Xiao Ran in a showcase performance as part of a short concert.
The concert also featured performances from the College’s most exceptional recent graduates including South African bass-baritone Simon Shibambu, percussionist Kizzy Brooks, bassoonist Todd Gibson-Cornish and current masters student, soprano Rowan Pierce. Rowan was awarded the prestigious President’s Award for her exceptional contribution to promoting the work of the Royal College of Music in the wider community. Rowan’s RCM highlights include performances in a Jonathan Dove premiere in 2012, Journeying Boys in 2013, and frequent performances in the RCM’s annual Bach Cantata series. Her external professional work has brought her to the attention of the professional musical world in both Europe and the UK. Rowan is a Samling Artist and her work with baroque groups in particular brings credit to both herself and the RCM as an institution.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner and opera star Sir John Tomlinson both received Honorary Doctorates during the ceremony. Sir John Tomlinson, said: “The music of great composers lies dormant in note form on the page and needs performers to bring it into existence. Bringing music to life is the task of every musician, and the Royal College of Music nurtures and develops a steady stream of singers and instrumentalists, composers and conductors, vital for the future of music worldwide. It is a great privilege for me to be honoured by a great College dedicated to this noble cause.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner recalled the impact of the Royal College of Music on his career, commenting: “In my teens I attended master classes by Nadia Boulanger at the Royal College of Music and was blown away by her inspirational exposés of works by Fauré, Schubert and others. It planted the seeds of an idea that one day I might study with her full time. Pretty well every day of my professional life as a musician I’ve thanked my lucky stars that I did, so I have long been grateful to the RCM for this experience.”
Also presented with Honorary Doctorates were Dame Janet Ritterman, former Director at RCM and Joseph Horovitz - best known for such ballet scores as Alice in Wonderland (1953), his music for television including Rumpole of the Bailey and his popular Jazz Concerto for harpsichord. Horovitz recently retired from teaching composition and the prestigious Composition for Screen course at RCM after over fifty years dedicated service.
Among the musical luminaries honoured with Fellowships were choral conductor, advisor and ambassador, Simon Halsey; lutenist Jakob Lindberg; soprano Elizabeth Watts; Principal of The Royal Academy of Music Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, and joint Principal Trumpet and Interim General Manager of The Philharmonia, Alistair Mackie.
A number of key RCM students and staff also received awards, including Miranda Francis, Head of RCM’s flourishing Junior Department. She said: “I lead an exceptionally dedicated and highly skilled team of teachers, and together we nurture the talent of over 300 talented young musicians aged 7 - 18 every Saturday. At the RCM we are passionately committed to ensuring that any student with musical potential can access the high quality musical tuition we offer regardless of circumstance. I am immensely proud of our students and their musical achievements.”
Professor Colin Lawson CBE, Director of the Royal College of Music, said: “It is hugely special to be joined by our President to celebrate so many eminent musicians and Royal College of Music supporters, who each make such an enormous contribution to the musical life of this country and beyond. It is also wonderful to honour the talents of Royal College of Music students, who we have no doubt will go on to become equally influential, and the teaching staff who do so much to inspire, support and nurture them.”