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Hitting the right note: The Queen approves the award of Her Majesty’s Medal for Music 2014

The Queen has granted the award of Her Majesty’s Medal for Music 2014 to Mr Simon Halsey. Halsey is the tenth recipient of the award.

The award, created in 2005, is given to an exceptional individual or group of musicians who have had a significant impact on the musical life of the country.

Sir Charles Mackerras was the inaugural recipient of the award.

Winners of Her Majesty’s Medal for Music may be of any nationality but must have had a major influence on the musical life of the UK.

The nomination for the award is administered by a committee under the chairmanship under the current Master of The Queen’s Music, Judith Weir. The Committee’s suggestion is presented to Her Majesty for approval. Joining Ms Weir on the committee are the Lord Berkeley of Knighton, Susanna Eastburn, William Lyne, Gillian Moore, Richard Morrison and Sir Curtis Price.

Mr Halsey will be bestowed with the award by Her Majesty during a reception at Buckingham Palace. A performance by the London Symphony Orchestra will follow.

“Choral conductor Simon Halsey has made a fundamental contribution to European music through his championship of choral singing as a vital part of orchestral performance, a British tradition which stretches back several centuries. In 1983, he took over the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Choruses, now a world-leading ensemble which, having founded several youth and community choruses along the way, he still directs. As a close colleague of Sir Simon Rattle in both Birmingham and Berlin, he has devised and conducted numerous innovative projects in his time with the Berlin Radio Chorus; and more recently has assumed care of the London Symphony Chorus. His lively, participatory style has inspired a new generation of young choral directors, together with a remarkable upsurge of interest in choirs and singing in the UK,” Judith Weir stated.

It came as a great surprise to Mr Halsey who stated: “I am so surprised and thrilled to receive this extraordinary honour from Her Majesty the Queen. Choral music is a vital part of our national life and is such a force for social and educational good. I’d like to see this medal as recognition of the work of a whole generation of dedicated choral musicians.”

Born in London, Simon Halsey sang in the choirs of New College, Oxford, and of King’s College, Cambridge. He studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London.

A renowned conductor and founder of numerous chorus groups, Mr Halsey, has worked in London, Birmingham and Berlin.

Since 2001, he has been Principal Conductor of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the permanent partner of the Berliner Philharmoniker, of which he is also Artistic Director of its Youth Choral Programme.

In 2012, he became the first Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir in 2012.

Since 2014, has been Artistic Advisor of the Choir Academy of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.

Presently, Mr Halsey is Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham, where he directs a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting, in association with the CBSO.

He is a winner of three Grammys for his recordings with the Rundfunkchor Berlin. In 2011, he received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany. Mr Halsey also holds three honorary doctorates from universities in the UK.

Previous recipients include The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, the Welsh bass-baritone opera and concert singer Bryn Terfel Jones CBE, and Dame Carolyn Emma Kirkby DBE, the English soprano singer and renowned early music specialists.

Featured photo credit: Michael Garnett via photopion cc

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