The nation abounds with musical heroes, giving their time and energy to conducting thousands of choirs and orchestras. Second to none is Hilary Campbell who works with a number of choirs and is commended here for her tireless and inspiring work with Bristol Choral Society.
She not only kept the 140-strong choir singing online, with regular rehearsals keeping spirits high through each lockdown, she invested seemingly limitless energy and imagination in helping them reach new heights. She commissioned professional singers to create rehearsal tracks for members. She ran a Christmas carol commissioning competition, drawing on professional players and technicians to ensure the highest quality outcome, which then drew hundreds of listeners online. To ensure it did not get overlooked in this difficult year, she personally hosted a digital launch event for the choir’s first professionally-recorded CD The Big Picture, released by Delphian Records, revealing insights from some of the composers featured including Cecilia McDowall, Bob Chilcott and Judith Weir. She also led stirring renditions of choral works from Rachmaninov to Rutter. Nonetheless it’s not just Hilary’s deeds that make her outstanding: it’s her spirit, athleticism and sheer joy which are instantly, irresistibly apparent from the performances and rehearsals she has led online the last year. See for yourself.
'In a time of unprecedented difficulty for musicians, Hilary responded with unbounded creativity and optimism. Week by week her cheerful energy and encouragement kept us singing, exploring new repertoire, improving technique, and constantly reminding us of our shared hope that we would in time experience real choral singing once again. She has been a model of courage in adversity and a bright point during the dark weeks of lockdown, worthy of wide public recognition.'
Julian Rivers, tenor, Bristol Choral Society
Under Hilary Campbell’s inspiring direction, Bristol Choral Society has re-invented itself for the 21st century with notable energy and creativity. The classics are still firmly there in the repertoire, but the choir’s expertise now stretches right up to the present day. Their enthusiasm and interest in mastering very new scores, and their methods of doing so, could be a model for all singing ensembles, professional and amateur.
Judith Weir, composer
Public voting for the 2021 RPS Inspiration Award has now closed and the winner will be announced at the RPS Awards at Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 November. Here you can read about the other five shortlistees: