Gareth Malone was the speaker at the RPS Music Awards this year. In an upbeat keynote address, he talked of the benefits of music and the particular vitality of classical music: “Music is good for you… and I think that classical music is better than the rest. It’s better than folk, it’s better than drum and bass, it’s better than rap.” Yet, the public perception was that classical music was the preserve of “nerdy, soft types” and “not sexy”, a belief reinforced by the tendency of the popular media to either ignore serious classical music altogether or apply salacious headlines which put celebrity, gossip and trivia above musical excellence: “violinist lost/stood on Stradivarius; Beyoncé Knowles is Mahler’’s cousin; Nuns to record on Lady Gaga’s label”.
Participation, Malone said, was the key to unlocking new audiences; through direct experience of music, and “getting up close with musicians” entrenched perceptions fall away and a real love of music can develop, founded on high quality experiences: “people don’t watch Formula 1 racing to see second rate cars”. In a rallying call to the awards audience in London, he spoke of the need to “blow our own trumpet” about “the greatest music scene in the world”.
You’ll be able to hear highlights of the speech on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 13 May at 14:00.
The RPS Music Awards were the first – and remain one of the very few – music awards to recognize outstanding contribution in the fields of Learning and Participation, and Audiences and Engagement. Gareth Malone has become synonymous with an inclusive approach to music making, encapsulated both by his award-winning BBC television documentaries The Choir, and by his work with music organizations such as Glyndebourne Youth Opera and the London Symphony Orchestra. In five documentary series, the multi-award winning The Choir has followed the transformative effect of choral singing on students, boys, the Hertfordshire town of South Oxhey, Glyndebourne Youth Opera in the creation of The Knight Crew and the Devon-based wives and girlfriends of military personnel deployed in Afghanistan (resulting in the hit single “Wherever you are” and the chart topping Military Wives CD In My Dreams).
The Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards have a strong track record of thought-provoking keynote speeches by distinctive, outspoken voices from across the arts.
Previous speakers have included artist Grayson Perry, playwright Mark Ravenhill, National Theatre Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner and Arts Council Chair Dame Liz Forgan.