From left to right: Jamie Hutchinson, Beth Higham-Edwards and Amy Thomas (c) Benjamin Ealovega

Orchestral players celebrated with the RPS ABO Salomon Prize

11 Dec 2021

Communities across Britain are brightened by orchestras of whom we should all be proud. This year, when so much live music ceased, orchestral players yet found inventive, ingenious ways to keep connected with their audiences, lifting hearts and minds when we all needed it most.

Annually, the Royal Philharmonic Society and Association of British Orchestras unite to present the Salomon Prize, the only award presented to orchestral musicians working in Britain. Each recipient has not only shone musically but made a remarkable contribution to the life of their orchestra and its audience. We are especially pleased to present it this year in recognition of everything that orchestral musicians have done in the face of the pandemic.

This year, it goes jointly to two orchestral musicians, with a special commendation for a further player.

The 2021 RPS ABO Salomon Prize recipients are:

Jamie Hutchinson, Sub Principal Violinist, Oxford Philharmonic

Beth Higham-Edwards, percussionist, London Chamber Orchestra

The awarding panel, comprising leading figures working in classical music, says:

‘Through the challenges of the past year, violinist Jamie Hutchinson has brought boundless imagination and energy to her role, not only creating work for her fellow players when live concerts ground to a halt, but keeping the audience’s spirits bright when it was needed most. Straight out the gate, she kickstarted a new series of educational videos – OP at Home – for primary schoolchildren, broadly welcomed and used by teachers and parents. She wholly devoted herself to adapting the orchestra’s invaluable interactive song-writing sessions with the Mulberry Bush, a residential school for vulnerable children, ensuring they could still meaningfully engage during the most difficult months. As a third lockdown began and schools faced closure once more, she set up the OP Music Club to inspire children, reaching 150 children weekly, helping relieve the pressure that teachers and parents were facing. She has quite simply been an inspiration to fellow players and audiences.

Percussionist Beth Higham-Edwards is a tremendously positive role-model. Before the pandemic, she took the lead of London Chamber Orchestra’s principal education project Music Junction, inspiring 10 partner schools in Greater London and Berkshire, including special educational needs schools. Once the pandemic hit, she devoted herself week in week out to keeping the initiative alive: being constantly present in weekly Zooms not only for young people already involved, but opening it up for a much wider community. Evident in the inspirational videos you can still find online, Beth’s brilliance through this has been to make all young people – regardless of their musical ability, or even whether they own an instrument – feel musically fuelled. She has cultivated such curiosity, creativity and resourcefulness among so many, not just fortifying them through the lockdown, but setting them on musical journeys for life.’

Also commended was viola player Amy Thomas from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In this CBSO’s centenary year, she has been a bright, driving force across their digital platforms and social media, devising and presenting a range of content to engage audiences and – through this – help ensure she and her fellow players retained a sense of purpose while they could not perform in the usual way.

The Salomon Prize is customarily presented on the concert hall stage. Jamie received her certificate last night, 10 December, presented by ABO Chief Executive Mark Pemberton, in a concert given by Oxford Philharmonic at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. Plans are being made for Beth to receive her certificate in the New Year.

The Salomon Prize is named after one of the founders of the RPS, violinist Johann Peter Salomon (1745 – 1815) who did much to enrich the impact and spirit of classical music in Britain. Annually all orchestras who are members of the ABO are invited to nominate a player for the Prize. Click here for details of all previous recipients since the Prize was introduced in 2012.