We were thrilled to learn on Sunday that last year's Debussy Festival received the 2019 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Classical Music. Festival partners included Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Town Hall Symphony Hall, IKON Gallery and The Electric Cinema.
The award ceremony, hosted by Melvyn Bragg at the Savoy Hotel in Central London, honoured artists and producers across a broad range of categories, from pop music to comedy - among the other winners were English National Ballet, English National Opera, Lily Allen and Sir Lenny Henry, who won the Outstanding Achievement award. The full awards programme will air on Wednesday 10 July at 8pm, on Sky Arts.
Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla said: "We are altogether thrilled to win the South Bank Sky Arts award for Classical Music, for our Debussy Festival. It was a great gift and wonderful experience to work on this festival, to prepare it, and then to celebrate the music and spirit of Claude Debussy. But much more than only his music and mind – we had a lot of context and dialogue with other composers, as well as co-operations with other arts organisations in Birmingham. I still remember, it was very beautiful weather in Birmingham, and many, many people were going about with their Debussy brochures in spring mood, inspired by impressionism and by this particular French beauty."
CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock OBE was presented with the award by saxophonist Jess Gillam. He commented: "This was a unique project for CBSO’s amazing team of orchestral players, choruses and staff, as well as our many partners, and we are delighted to have received this award. For 10 days last year Birmingham was taken over by the exotic, beautiful sounds of Claude Debussy’s music – not just in the four concert halls involved, but also with pianos at New Street Station and on the tram to Wolverhampton. Marking the centenary of one of music’s great originals in this way was a great preparation for our own centenary celebrations over the next two seasons, and demonstrated once again the power of great music to bring people together."