HYNDBURN’S two musical knights Harrison Birtwistle and John Tomlinson were this week honoured by the Royal Philharmonic Society at a major ceremony in London.
They were given two of Britain’s top awards for their contribution to the nation’s cultural and musical life.
Accrington-born Sir Harrison, 79, picked up his fifth RPS award for his choral chamber work “The Moth Requiem” based on the names of moths ext-inct in modern Britain.
Oswaldtwistle’s Sir John, 66, won its gold medal, the organisation’s highest hon- our, The celebrated bass opera singer was described as ‘a giant of a music-ian, not only in the rich resonance of his voice, but in his magnetic pres-ence on stage and in his utmost generosity to his fellow musicians’.
The jury, awarding Sir Harrison the Small Chamber Composition prize, said it was ‘captivated by this very personal work’, which was ‘exciting to experience, with textures that entice and ravish the ear … distinctive, deft, dark and delirious’.
He has won more RPS prizes than any other person, having previously won the awards for Large-Scale Compos-ition in 1995 and 2003, and Chamber-Scale Compos-ition in 1990 and 2008.
Both borough musical giants are involved in a World War One centenary concert honouring the Accrington Pals later this year.
Sir Harrison, currently Professor of Composition at London’s King’s College, is seen as Britain’s greatest living composer, and created the title role in his 2008 opera The Minotaur for Sir John.
In his new book pub-lished today – ‘Wild Tracks: a conversation Diary with Fiona Maddocks’, Sir Harrison recalls: “My parents had what was called a confectioner’s shop in Accrington, but really it was a bakery.
“The downstairs had three rooms, where most of the other houses in the row – terraced “two-up two-downs” – had just the two. Upstairs we had a bathroom, with a bath and wash-basin.
“It was probably the only bathroom in the street. But the toilet was outside in the back yard. like everyone else's.
“I used to lie in bed early in the morning and around 7am, there’d be a trem-endous clattering in the streets, getting louder and louder, and it was the sound of clogs. Workers were on their way to the mill.”