Simon Halsey, Professor and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Birmingham, has been awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music 2014.
The prize, established in 2005, is awarded to an outstanding individual or group of musicians who has had a major influence on the musical life of the nation.
Professor Halsey was presented with the award by the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace following a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Professor Halsey is the 10th recipient of the award and follows in the footsteps of winners such as Bryn Terfel, Dame Emma Kirkby, and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
The nominating process for the award is overseen by a committee under the chairmanship of the Master of the Queen’s Music, currently Judith Weir.
Professor Halsey has been Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Choruses for more than 30 years and in 2012 was appointed Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus. He became the first Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir in 2012 and has won three Grammy awards for his recordings with the Rundfunkchor Berlin. At the University of Birmingham, Professor Halsey directs a postgraduate course in Choral Conducting, in association with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Professor Halsey said: ‘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.’
Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said: ‘I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Simon Halsey on this wonderful achievement. This prestigious honour is fitting recognition of Simon’s contribution to the musical – and particularly choral – life of the country, city and University.’
Judith Weir said: ‘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 Chorus, 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.’
For more information, please contact Stuart Gillespie in the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 9041.
- The Queen's Medal for Music rewards an individual who has had a major influence on the musical life of the nation.
- Winners of this annual award may be of any nationality but they must have had a major influence on the musical life of the UK.
- The nominating process for the award is overseen by a committee under the chairmanship of the Master of The Queen's Music. The committee members are Judith Weir, The Lord Berkeley of Knighton, Susanna Eastburn, William Lyne, Gillian Moore, Richard Morrison and Sir Curtis Price.
- The award was first made in 2005, when the recipient was conductor and composer Sir Charles Mackerras.
- The Queen is Patron of The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music; The Royal Academy of Music; The Royal College of Music; The Royal Northern College of Music; ; Help Musicians UK; The Royal Choral Society; The Royal College of Organists; The Royal Philharmonic Society; The Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain and Royal Patron of The Royal School of Church Music.
Biography: Simon Halsey
Simon Halsey is a renowned conductor of choral repertoire and an ambassador for choral singing across the world. Halsey has been Chorus Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Choruses for more than 30 years and in 2012 was appointed Choral Director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and London Symphony Chorus (LSC). 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. He became the first Director of the BBC Proms Youth Choir in 2012 and since 2014 has been Artistic Advisor of the Choir Academy of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
At the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Halsey also founded a Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus, as well as two community choirs in Birmingham and the surrounding area. Since becoming Choral Director of the LSO and LSC, Halsey has been credited with bringing about a ‘spectacular transformation’ (Evening Standard) of the LSC.
Simon 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. In 2011, Schott Music published his book and DVD on choral conducting, Chorleitung: Vom Konzept zum Konzert, as part of its ‘Master Class’ series.
In August 2014, Simon Halsey was invited by the British Government to conduct a combined choir from the LSC and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival at a commemoration ceremony to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I at St Symphorien Military Cemetery. Another recent highlight was the world premiere of David Lang’s Crowd Out, a community work for 1,000 voices, which Halsey conducted in Birmingham, Berlin and London. Last month he brought together his two UK choirs (CBSO Chorus and LSC) to perform with the Berliner Philharmoniker at London’s Royal Festival Hall, celebrating Sir Simon Rattle’s 60th birthday.
Halsey’s other awards include three Grammys for his recordings with the Rundfunkchor Berlin. He was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2011, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to choral music in Germany, and holds three honorary doctorates from universities in the UK.
Born in London, Simon Halsey sang in the choirs of New College, Oxford, and King’s College, Cambridge. He studied conducting at the Royal College of Music in London.
Simon Halsey is represented by Intermusica.