Inspiration Award – further commendations

Supported by Decca Classics

It’s an unenviable challenge for any RPS Awards panel to pick a winner. Faced with 2,761 public nominations for the new Inspiration Award – for endeavours that set out to inspire us all during lockdown – the RPS Board and Council not only chose six winners (detailed here) but specially commend a number of additional achievements accounted below. Whatever music you have enjoyed during lockdown, we hope you find further inspirations among them.

All Together Now Choir

An existing collective of seven community choirs across Yorkshire led by Chris Kemp who, in the words of one nominator, ‘has gone above and beyond to make sure his choir members (many in the vulnerable group and in total isolation) have been in almost daily contact during lockdown with singing zooms, quizzes, games practical help and generally lifting peoples spirits. He’s our hero.’ Take a look at one of their videos.

Bedford Girls School - Lean On Me

Several schools seized the opportunity to stay connected musically through lockdown, this example from Bedford inspiring man nominations. One nominator told us ‘it was so moving to see so many pupils, staff and parents singing with such beautiful voices. Many of these girls had never sung in choirs or publicly before. They made me realise the power of music at such a time of despair.

Belfast Philharmonic Youth Choir - Hope

Many people sang during lockdown, but this young commissioned a new song ‘Hope’ by young composer Laura Sheils which really moved a number of nominators. One said ‘this was a significant effort to engage and inspire young people and bring their message of hope to the community during lockdown. With support from Ulster Orchestra players, it illustrated the power of music in contributing to the well-being of society today.’

Blackpool Symphony Orchestra – Somewhere over the Rainbow

Just days into lockdown, this amateur ensemble was one of the first orchestras in the country to release something online, to a remarkably high standard too. One nominator said ‘created entirely at home, the video was simply jaw-dropping – and raised much-needed funds for Blackpool Food Bank to the tune of £3,000.’

Chorleywood Primary School – Dream Big

This Hertfordshire primary school has created a number of platforms for its pupils to share their musicality online. These include a showcase of performances during lockdown and an elaborate, moving performance of ‘True Colours’ combining the whole school community – students, parents and teachers – as equals. One nominator says ‘this is a school that has tried really hard to look after the mental well-being of its pupils. It's not been easy, but the Dream Big initiative has kept us outward looking during lockdown.’

Edinburgh Beethoven 2020 – Ode to Joy

How could we not feature one of many stirring efforts in isolation to recreate the rousing ‘Ode to Joy’ first commissioned by the Philharmonic Society? This one was commended by one nominator as ‘a beautiful music-making opportunity and a wonderful fundraising gesture to support musicians who lost work due to the cancellation of Edinburgh festivals.’

Great British Home Chorus

It’s no surprise that tireless choral champion Gareth Malone would assemble something impressive in lockdown, and with its own EP and television programme, the Great British Home Chorus was just that. One nominator writes ‘I live alone and I'm 78 years old. Whilst isolating at home, GBHC has kept me sane and given me something to look forward to every day. Gareth has given his wonderful and charismatic skills to coach and encourage and help us develop skills of our own.’

Héloïse Werner – Corona solfege

Of all the new musical offerings in lockdown, soprano Héloïse’s Corona solfege is one of the most original and arresting. Rather addictive to follow, and better witnessed than explained in words, one nominator writes: ‘There have been so many online performances during this pandemic, but what is new? What is creative? What is trying to do something else? Corona solfege presents a joyous complexity with elegant simplicity of means.’

Jamie Hall – Bathrobe Recitals

Baritone Jamie presented 66 short performances on his Twitter profile, making a virtue of the domestic setting (hence the title). One nominator applauded ‘a great variety of songs offering a thoughtful, humorous and joyous start to every day, despite the time limitations of Twitter. Jamie inspired me to continue singing everyday despite no audience of my own.’

London Mozart Players - At Home With LMP

The player-run LMP have not ceased in sharing endless, imaginative content in lockdown – including a particularly popular Peter and the Wolf – and drawing on lots of guest collaborators. One nominator notes ‘LMP was the first classical music organisation to launch online content in lockdown. From the first Monday there was something every day to suit all tastes and ages. It was an amazing transformation at a time when they could have just gone into hibernation.’

Music in the Round – Sheffield Chamber Music Festival At Home

Early in lockdown, Music in the Round were one of the first organisations to rethink and fulfil their festival offering entirely online, gaining lots of appreciation and nominations. One nominator commends ‘eighteen videos of outstanding musicians producing performances of extraordinary ingenuity, beauty and wit at a time, mid-May, when lockdown felt at its most confining.’

Oxford Bach Soloists – St John Passion

Presented in excerpts through April and May, Oxford Bach Soloists set an early high benchmark with this ambitious, impressively-performed, and moving account of the St John Passion, with numerous luminary guest artists. One nominator called it ‘exhilarating, by musicians of all professional stages, scattered by the lockdown but brought back together by Bach!’

Rupert Waddington

Lute player Rupert set himself a challenge to share treasures of his instrument’s repertoire over 90 days. It captivated many new fans. One told us ‘Rupert's daily dose of calming and inspiring lute music combined with his cheerful and clear explanations was a bright spot in our days of uncertainty. That Rupert was challenging himself to explore and improve was inspirational, and it set me to do something of the same.’

Samara Ginsberg

Cellist Samara earned lots of nominations for her ingenious multi-cello arrangements in which up to ten versions of herself play as an ensemble. One nominator writes ‘My son (aged 7 with ASD) actually stopped playing his Nintendo to watch and wanted to see more, not an easy accomplishment! Samara tweeted a lovely message recognising the importance online provision of arts make to those isolated for reasons other than the pandemic.’

Sing A Song A Day with Helen Styles

Helen set about rousing her own children and countless others with a daily song shared online, with tireless energy and enthusiasm, 120 days in a row. One grateful parent told us ‘it's provided a really cheery and inspirational focal point every single day. I'm sure many parents having to stay indoors have appreciated this. It has demonstrated how music can brighten our days and lighten our mood.’

Sing Out Choir

Though this choir was already established for adults with autism and learning disabilities, its founder Camilla Farrant saw acute need to keep it going in lockdown and made daily films for participants to sing along to, and personally embarked on filming many such isolating individuals on their doorsteps singing ‘Hey Jude’. One nominator says ‘Camilla has supported a very vulnerable group with her inimitable optimism.’

The Choir of St James the Greater, Leicester

A number of church choirs found inventive ways to uphold the tradition of evensong during lockdown. This endeavour in Leicester roused multiple nominations, with one enthusiast saying ‘in a very short space of time, the choristers, each in isolation, worked extremely hard to virtually record a full evensong, firstly for Easter Sunday, with more since.’

The Self Isolation Choir

Of the many newly-devised choirs, this one set itself the highest challenge: to bring thousands together to sing the complete Messiah with professional soloists and players. Mendelssohn’s Elijah followed, with more masterworks to come, each energetically led by choral director Ben England. One nominator said ‘Ben’s dedication, his passion for music has inspired me through rehearsals 5 nights a week for 9 weeks. He has listened to us all and made such a difference to so many of us across the world, allowing us to become virtual friends.’

Ulster Orchestra – #UOLetsPlayAtHome

A real team effort, Ulster Orchestra tirelessly produced 72 bursts of new content comprising performance, insights, discussion, and family offerings, all led by the players, giving a greater insight into the personalities of the whole orchestra. One nominator says ‘it has allowed the audience to get to know the players as individuals and brought a new appreciation of the family that the Ulster Orchestra is, placing them even more firmly at the heart of the Northern Ireland music scene.’

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